Metadata: 2018 | TV-14 | 1h 13m
Genre: documentary, dance extravaganza
Why I watched: Despite being no good at it myself, I love to watch dancing. I read a little snippet about Ballet Now in a NYT newsletter, and I immediately headed over to Hulu to check it out.
You might also like: Okay, I've got Mamma Mia! on the brain, since the second one just came out in theaters. Head over to Netflix for lots of delightful choreography and catchy tunes! Also, Step Up 2: The Streets—my favorite of the bunch; came out when I was in high school, and my friend Cody and I were equally obsessed—is on Netflix too. So fun!
As a young girl, my best friend Katie was a talented dancer. I was in awe. I'd never taken a dance class, preferring gymnastics instead because even then I was embarrassed of my dancing, and it seemed to me that what she could do—all those pirouettes and beautiful leaps—was magical. She would invite me to her house to play and her "dance friends," as I thought of them, would be there sometimes. Katie's family had a small trampoline, and she and her dance friends would use it as a spring board to do fantastic splits and flips in the air, and I...mostly just bounced, and watched. I was mesmerized by what they could do.
Now I still love watching ballet, but the dancers always seem remote and—though graceful—almost mechanical. They don't seem like real people when I'm sitting in the back of a balcony. The ballerinas look like a distant painting in motion, or like the little porcelain figures spinning in an old music box.
That's why Ballet Now is so pleasurable. The dancers and the dancing are anything but remote. The Hulu original documentary follows New York City Ballet principal ballerina Tiler Peck as she curates, directs, and dances in a program at the Music Hall in Los Angeles that brings together all different types of dance and dancers: ballet (of course), tap, hip hop, and even mime (yes, mime!). The camera follows her very tightly, with regular close ups of her feet and face and the back of her head, as she runs from one rehearsal, to the next, to the next. Transcending her (already very impressive role) as principal dancer in one of the world's most prestigious dance companies, Peck consults with the composer, the light director, the stage manager, the choreographers, and more. The documentary intersperses these conversations with gorgeous, lingering shots of her rehearsals in which not only her insane talent, but also her bright, cheerful personality and effortless executive presence shine.
The film ends with a large chunk of the final performance, and it's incredibly satisfying to watch the flawless execution of the pieces Peck and others have worked on so tirelessly. In the week leading up to the program (because yes, Peck only had one week to put the program together), the world-renowned ballerina is weary. She's sore, she's hungry, she's worried about the pieces coming together, and she takes solace in her mom and grandmother, and in her adorable dog. She scarfs down sandwiches, often while sitting on the floor, her long, graceful limbs folded in around her.
“I love watching the normalcy mixed with the extraordinary that you see in Tiler in this film,” former ballet dancer and now-actress Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men, The Handmaid's Tale), who executive produced the doc, told The New York Times. I loved it too. The film makes this high art form more accessible, and that art became more, not less, magical to me because of it.