With studios and live performances closed and cancelled for the foreseeable future due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I and many dancers and friends I know have been feeling anxious and unsettled about the state of the world. While we may not be able to perform and train together at this time, the arts can still bring comfort and joy to us wherever we are. In an effort to calm some of my own nerves and stay immersed in the dance world I have turned to some of my favorite soothing dance performances and films, listed below. ♡
“After the Rain” Solo: Christopher Wheeldon/Carla Korbes
Carla Korbes beautifully transforms this excerpt from Wheeldon’s pas de deux into a dance between herself and nature. For fans of the original pas de deux this adaptation loses none of the original’s hypnotizing magic, and fits in perfectly with the natural setting.
“Static Motion”: Saul Nash/Nowness
“The idea of this film is to show that grace can be found everywhere” explains filmmaker Fx Goby, who collaborated with dancer and choreographer Saul Nash to create “Static Motion.” The film features a group of male dancers in an empty and industrial-looking London set to hauntingly beautiful music by Vivaldi. The choreography and the quality of the dancers’ movement blends effortlessly from separation to unity, celebrating both simple movements and impressive physical feats.
“Note to Self”: Ihsan Rustem
Admittedly not the clearest video, but the dancers in Ihsan Rustem’s piece keep perfect timing and fluidity in their movements and interactions. Ane Brun’s rendition of “Big in Japan” provides a truly calming soundtrack.
“Dying Swan” variation: Uliana Lopatkina
Sorrowful, magical, and one of the most iconic ballet solos. Uliana Lopatkina is the classic effortless Russian swan, “dying” with dignity and grace. While this variation is, of course, meant to be moving and sad, I also find it calming and nostalgic, a reminder of how simple movements can create tremendous beauty and emotion.
“This Bitter Earth”: Christopher Wheeldon/Tiler Peck and Tyler Angle
This piece gives me the chills. Every time. Wheeldon’s choreography is smooth and graceful and Max Richter’s “On the Nature of Daylight” seamlessly melds with Dinah Washington’s moving narration.
“Concerto – Second Movement pas de deux”: Kenneth MacMillan/The Royal Ballet
Inspired by a ballerina’s movements at the barre, this serene pas de deux is elegantly danced by Marianela Nuñez and Rupert Pennefather. The warm-toned sets and costumes evoke a setting sun in summer, and the choreography flows together effortlessly.
“Soar. Glide. Flap.”: Joan Liu/Axons Dance Theatre
(Disclaimer: I am in this piece…) This is one of my all-time favorite pieces to dance and a truly mesmerizing experience for the audience. The choreography is inspired (as the title implies) by the different types of flight birds take, and the dancers weave in and out of each other smoothly. Dancing this piece feels like being in a trance, and I hope watching it is just as calming for you.
Photo credit Maja Bakija
Above: Axons Dance Theatre in “Soar. Glide. Flap.”
“F Minor”: Hania Rani/Nowness
Three whirlwind contemporary dance solos set on the stunning shores of Iceland during golden hour, accompanied by pianist Hania Rani’s live playing. This film is both meditative and a healthy dose of escapism, just what we need while stuck indoors.
*P.S. To see all videos in this list (and a few additions) that are available on YouTube see the following playlist.
**P.P.S. Have more films or filmed dance performances you think should be included? Shoot me a comment on the contact page! Thank you for reading this far!