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Question--Your List of "Essential" Ballet Videos

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My 16 year old daughter (ballet student, ballet lover), would like to start a collection of ballet Dvds/videos. I believe she is primarily interested in performance videos, especially of the classics, but "contemporary classics" would be great, too. Which videos do feel are the best of the best, and why? Do you feel there is a specific performance of a well-known ballet that is remarkable for its interpretation of the choreography, its staging, or the quality of the dancing? Are there lesser known ballets that any good student should have knowledge of? Are there specific performances or documentaries by/of "ballet icons" that you would include? Thanks for your help! I plan to look for a couple of videos for Christmas, and then add to the collection as special occasions come up.

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Good question, Balletmom. I hope everyone will post their own core collections -- that would be fun. Do you remember the Desert Island Disks shows on public radio? Let's have Desert Island DVDs. What 10 DVDs would you take with you if you knew you were going to be marooned on a desert island?

You might find Robert Greskovic's Ballet 101 useful. He has an extensive videography that answers many of your questions. The book is a few years old now and keyed to videos -- but many of the most important videos have been released on DVD.

But for now, whawt are your Desert Island DVDs? The basics for a collection?

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Great idea balletmom: My daughter's knowledge and appreciation of ballet have been increased immeasurably by the collection of 60+ videos I've put together.

Without a doubt your best guide to all this is Robert Greskovic's (BalletTalk board member rg) must-have book Ballet 101. It has an appendix video guide that separates the wheat from the chaff. Use it to start a checklist. Ebay & Half.com are excellent sources for out of print hard to find videos, but it takes a lot of diligence and patience. My daughter plays the ABT DVD's to death! Be sure to include the Royal, Kirov and Bolshoi. And of course: Balanchine.

Happy hunting!


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I think that Kirov ballet videos are a must have to begin with, as they show the classics by the company where they were created: in my opinion I could not do without:

Sleeping Beauty - Sizova/Soloviev, or Kolpakova-Berezhnov, or even Lezhnina-Ruzimatov

Swan Lake - Mezentseva - Zaklinsky (or Makhalina - Zelensky)

Paquita - Makhalina - Zelensky

These are "to begin with" tapes for me


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Wow, 60+ videos! I am incredibly envious right now...and I thought I had a large collection at 25. My 10 Desert Island videos/DVDs would be:

1. The Erik Bruhn/Nureyev Bell Telephone Hour performances

2. Swan Lake with Makhalina

3. Le Corsaire with Asylmuratova

4. Don Quixote with Terekhova

5. "Essential Ballet"

6. "Kirov Classics"

7. Sleeping Beauty with Sizova

8. Sleeping Beauty with Asylmuratova

9. Sleeping Beauty with Kolpakova

10. Sleeping Beauty with Lezhnina

Not exactly the most balanced list, but I love it :D.

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Wow! Thanks for everone's input so far. I love Alexandria's suggestion of Desert Island DVDs. I intend to try and find Robert Greskovic's Ballet 101, sounds like it would be a great gift, also. Sulan, Suzanne Farrell's Elusive Muse is on my personal "want" list. I'll also keep in mind that this will probably be a collection she will want to keep for many years, so I'll make DVDs a priority. I'm looking forward to seeing everyone's suggestions/lists. Hans, I'm not much of a videophile--do you know if Essential Ballet is still in print, and what can you tell me about it? The title sounds intriguing. I'm looking forward to spending many happy hours searching for all these and more on the internet.

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Another excellent documentary is "Dancing for Mr. B: Six Balanchine Ballerinas." This is a film by the late Anne Belle, who later made "Suzanne Farrell: Elusive Muse." The ballerinas are Maria Tallchief, Mary Ellen Moylan, Melissa Hayden, Allegra Kent, Merrill Ashley, and Darci Kistler. The playing time is 86 minutes.

A favorite video of mine is Robert Schumann's Davidsbundlertanze, from 1981. The dancers are Karin von Aroldingen, Suzanne Farrell, Sara Leland, Heather Watts, Jacques d'Amboise, Ib Andersen, Adam Luders, and Peter Martins. It's 43 minutes long.

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Balletmom, "Essential Ballet" is available on DVD through Amazon. It features the Kirov in a gala performance of various classics attended by Princess Diana in London and a gala of various Kirov, Bolshoi, and Paris Opéra dancers in an outdoor theater set up in Red Square, Moscow. Some very nice performances of classic excerpts, including some that are not seen that much--a bit of Aniuta, a pas de deux from Fokine's "Firebird," and Maya Plissetskaya's "Dying Swan." It also features Olga Chenchikova in "Paquita," Larissa Lezhnina in "Diana and Actaeon," and Altynai Asylmuratova in "The Leaves are Fading" pas de deux.

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Yet another vote for Elusive Muse and the NYCB Nutcracker. They're both on DVD. Another favorite DVD is ABT at the Met It's a mixed program which includes the version of Les Sylphides that Greskovic discusses in his book. It also includes performances from a number of terrific dancers.

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I've scanned this list up and down, down and up, a couple of times. I simply can't believe no one has suggested the new Barbie Swan Lake! What's the matter with you people? :wink::wub:

But on a serious note, I'd recommend Baryshnikov at Wolf Trap, if only to see rare footage of Gelsey Kirkland. At the time of this filming, she was approaching her most severe anorexic phase -- not there yet. She was far from the top of her form. Still, well, it's Gelsey. And Mischa looks pretty great there, too.

It includes his solo, Vestris, the Act III pdd from Coppelia, the Act III pdd from DonQ.

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In no particular order, but hte order in which they come to mind --

The Danish version of La Sylphide, directed by Henning Kronstam, staring Nikolai Huebbe and Lis Jeppesen and SORELLA ENGLUND

The ABT Giselle starring Makarova, Baryshnikov, and van Hamel (out of this world)

The old Royal Ballet 1-act version of Swan Lake starring Fonteyn and Somes, which has also a couple of other ballets on the video

The Kirov's Sizova/Soloviev Sleeping Beauty

The old Bolshoi Swan Lake staring Plisetskaya

THe PBS Balanchine biography

The Royal BAllet Makarova/Dowell Swan Lake

The Royal Ballet in Ashton's Cinderella, starring Ashton, Helpmann, Sibley and Dowell

The BBC biography of Margot Fonteyn

"We sing, we dance" (biography of hte Nicholas Brothers)

Singing in the Rain


Swing Time

Shall We Dance? (both of them, the Fred/Ginger and the Japanese titles)

Elusive Muse

Strictly Ballroom

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I own about 100 ballet videos and what my daughter and I have watched most often are Elusive Muse, Dancing for Mr. B, Children of Theatre Street, Backstage at the Kirov, ABT's Le Corsaire, Baryshnikov at Wolf Trap, Reflections of a Dancer (Alexandra Danilova), World's Young Ballet, & Holiday of Ballet.

For videos focussing on individual dancers in class, it's Peter Martins: A Dancer, Natalia Makarova In a Class of Her Own, & Fernando Bujones.

The "Glories of..." videos contain real gems, as do Essential Ballet, The Magic of the Bolshoi Ballet, Classic Kirov & Kirov Ballet, Mixed Program .

Favorite versions of story ballets:

Sleeping Beauty (Asylmuratova/Zaklinski)

Sleeping Beauty (Sizova/Soloviev)

Giselle (Makarova/Baryshnikov)

Giselle (Ferri/Murru)

Romeo and Juliet (Loudière/Legris)

Romeo and Juliet (Ferri/Eagling)

Swan Lake (Ulanova)

Swan Lake (Mezentseva/Zaklinski)

Nutcracker (NYCB)

Manon (Penney/Dowell)

Don Quixote (Terekhova/Ruzimatov)

La Bayadère (Komleva/Terekhova)

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Marga, where can I get Ulanova's Swan Lake?  I MUST see it!

Hans, I happened to find it on Ebay, not too long ago. It may show up again. Ebay has been my only source of ballet videos for the last year and a half. No more shelling out $20 - $40 each for them! Unless, of course, they are rare and otherwise unavailable, and ones that I simply must have!

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Balletmom, you should be aware that often young dancers are not impressed by dancers of past generations, because their technique does not look modern. An online friend of mine who is a balletomane and loves the videos of the old Bolshoi and Kirov performances says that his sister, who is a dancer, generally does not enjoy watching performances from the '60s or earlier. If you are able to rent ballet videos somewhere, it might be a good idea to see whether your daughter likes the older performances before spending a lot of money on them. Or try to find them on ebay -- I found the Makarova/BaryshnikovGisellethere.

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Here's my two cents:

ABT at The Met-mixed bill(1984) Les Sylphides, Sylvia pas de deux, Paquita

ABT Giselle with Makarova

The Kirov Ballet in London(1988) including a charming Elena Pankova in La Vivandiere and an ageless Irina Kolpakova in Le Papillon

The Glory of the Bolshoi(1995)

Essential Ballet- Stars of the Russian Ballet (1992/93) Asylmuratova/Zaklinsky in The Leaves are Fading pas de deux(it looks a little under rehearsed, but who cares? I'd pay money to see Asylmuratova dance the macarena! ) and Nina Ananiashvili in Don Q

Of all my Choreography by Balanchine Tapes the ones I love and play the most are:

Robert Schumann's Davidsbundlertanze and

Tzigane, Andante from Divertimento No. 15 and The Four Temperaments

X-mas wish list (in case Santa is viewing):

Any ballets on video by Frederick Ashton

Royal Ballet La Bayadere with Asylmuratova

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I have recently purchased "Kirov Ballet Classic Ballet Night" and I think it is a real gem!

It features Diane and Actheon, Esmeralda , Flower Festival in Genzano, La Vivandiere, the Venice Carnaval and the Pas de quatre, all very beautifully danced by the Kirov dancers. What is nice is that I finally got to see some pieces that are rarely danced here in America.

Although some did not like it, I would stongly suggest anyone who has respect for dancers and the hard work they endure to get " Etoiles", a documentary by Nils Tavernier on the Opera de Paris dancers. I probably watched it a 100 times and am beginning to know it by heart. True, there are not alot of dancing scenes since but M. Tavernier wanted to focus on the "work" that goes on behind the scenes and he did a marvelous job at it! So you get a real feel of what goes on in the life of a dancer for a major company

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koshka, our local library has pretty slim pickings--they do have the Footnotes series, though, and a few others like Dancing For Mr. B. Our local video store has even more meager offerings. I envy those who live in more cosmopolitan areas! Your suggestion has me thinking, though--I'm considering forming an informal video exchange group for interested parents or dancers at my daughter's studio. If the studio gives permission, maybe posting a sign-up list on the bulletin board with space for listing the videos you're willing to loan out. My only worry is getting my videos back, but since I see most of these people almost daily, maybe it won't be a problem.

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