“People say I’m an optimist. You have to be. You’re dead if you’re not.” These words were spoken by Lucia Chase, the founder of The American Ballet Theatre, whom so much of its history was built upon. In this PBS documentary titled American Ballet Theatre: A History, director Ric Burns takes the viewer into the depths of the first American ballet company.
The film leads you from the origins of ballet in Italy, to its blossoming in France, expansion into Russia and eventual landing in America. With ballet becoming a sensation in American culture, Lucia Chase took over as patron of an emerging ballet company. Using her insight and keen sense of the dramatic, she hired choreographers who were willing to strip out the etiquette of classical ballet and push it off the beaten path. The abstract experimental performances gave the ABT the respect and awe it yearned for.
While not a ballet aficionado myself, I do like to attend performances. I am stupefied by what ballet dancers can accomplish with their bodies. Their strength and power are stunning. This documentary was interesting yet geared more towards those who have an affinity for the history of dance and choreography.
In conclusion, this documentary was part beauty, part death-by-slow-motion.