Ric Burns' New Documentary American Ballet Theatre: A History Premieres Nationwide on THIRTEEN's American Masters Series Friday, May 15 on PBS in Honor of the Company's 75th Anniversary

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Jo-Carolyn Goode | 5/6/2015, 9:17 a.m.
THIRTEEN's American Masters series teams up with Emmy- and Peabody Award-winning filmmaker Ric Burns to co-produce a new documentary about ...
THIRTEEN's American Masters series teams up with Emmy- and Peabody Award-winning filmmaker Ric Burns to co-produce a new documentary about American Ballet Theatre (ABT) in honor of its 75th anniversary.
PBS.org

American Ballet Theatre: Julie Kent on Beauty and Humanity

Julie Kent, principal dancer of American Ballet Theatre, joined the company in 1985 and will retire in 2015 after the company’s spring season at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York. In this film excerpt, Kent recalls a note she was given by the great ballerina Natalia (Natasha) Makarova before her debut in Bayadère, which Makarova herself had re-staged after Marius Petipa. Makarova wrote to Kent, “Someone once said beauty can save the world. What a great responsibility you have on your shoulders.” “That has resonated with me for all these years,” says Kent. “It’s not politicians, or scientists, or technology, but beauty and humanity —which is so clear in dance—is the closest that we can get to that salvation, I think.” American Masters – American Ballet Theatre: A History premieres nationwide Friday, May 15, 2015, at 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings).

American Masters -- American Ballet Theatre: A History premieres nationwide Friday, May 15, 2015 at 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings). Delving into the rich history of one of the world's preeminent ballet companies, Burns combines intimate rehearsal footage, virtuoso performances and interviews with American Ballet Theatre's key figures: artists pivotal to the company's formation, including Alicia Alonso and the late Donald Saddler and Frederic Franklin; contemporary luminaries, including dancers Susan Jaffe and Julie Kent, choreographer Alexei Ratmansky and artistic director Kevin McKenzie; past and present stars Misty Copeland, Gillian Murphy, Marcelo Gomes and Hee Seo; dance historian and author Jennifer Homans; and prominent dance critics Anna Kisselgoff and the late Clive Barnes. The film will be available on DVD July 14 from PBS Distribution.

"The story of American Ballet Theatre, and the breathtaking rise of dance in the U.S. over the last three-quarters of a century, is one of the most inspiring stories in the cultural world," says Burns. "Ballet is the most poignantly ephemeral and expressive of all the arts, both earthbound and transcendent. And ABT, indisputably one of the greatest dance companies in the world, has torn down an incredible number of barriers, welcoming choreographers of every kind and dancers from around the world."

"As we approach our 75th year, it is a tremendous honor to have Ric Burns and American Masters illuminate ABT's history in such a rich and meaningful way," said Rachel Moore, CEO of American Ballet Theatre. "I am certain the expertise and care Ric and his team have devoted to this film will offer a fresh perspective on our art form and serve as a fitting testament to this cultural institution."

American Masters -- American Ballet Theatre: A History chronicles the rise of the company from its earliest days as a small, financially struggling collective, to its pinnacle as one of the most respected and revered dance companies in the world. Beginning film production in 2006, Burns was given unprecedented access to the company and shot hundreds of hours of original footage, including dramatic live performances in Paris and Havana, grueling rehearsals at ABT's flagship studio in New York City and slow-motion captures at Kaatsbaan International Dance Center in Tivoli, N.Y.

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American Ballet Theatre: A History premieres Friday, May 15, 2015, 9:00-10:30 p.m. ET (check listings) Ric Burns’ documentary on the 75-year history of the preeminent ballet company combines rehearsal footage, virtuoso performances and interviews with ABT's key figures including Alicia Alonso and the late Donald Saddler and Frederic Franklin; Susan Jaffe and Julie Kent, Misty Copeland, Gillian Murphy, Marcelo Gomez, Hee Seo, choreographer Alexei Ratmansky and Artistic Director Kevin McKenzie. Watch more: www.pbs.org/americanmasters

The footage from Kaatsbaan features iconic dances by nine ABT dancers, including Copeland, Murphy, Seo, Gomes, Isabella Boylston, Herman Cornejo, Daniil Simkin, Joseph Gorak and Cory Stearns, chosen by McKenzie for their diversity and breadth of talent to illustrate the ABT dancers' formidable technicality, intricate artistry and nuanced emotion. Shot by Emmy-winning cinematographer Buddy Squires and a 30-person crew using Phantom Flex cameras - which capture up to 2,500 frames per second and brings to life even the smallest of movements - the footage brings a new dimension to the understanding of the extraordinary efforts made in the perfection of form: from the delicate placement of a fingertip to the perfectly executed jeté.

Combined with hundreds of carefully curated stills from archives across the country and rare footage of ballet icons Alonso, Jerome Robbins, Agnes de Mille, Antony Tudor, Nora Kaye and Mikhail Baryshnikov, American Masters - American Ballet Theatre: A History