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Something to Dance About: Jerome Robbins

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If this has already been mentioned elsewhere, my apologies.

Jerome Robbins will finally get the Amercian Masters treatment on Wednesday, February 18, 2009.

No other creative figure of the latter twentieth century was as contradictory as Jerome Robbins, and few were as controversial. He was a master of the Broadway musical, transforming its possibilities with such works as West Side Story, Gypsy, and Peter Pan, and was one of the greatest ballet choreographers this country has ever produced.

Thirteen/WNET’s AMERICAN MASTERS profiles this complex mid-century artist in Jerome Robbins: Something to Dance About, premiering Wednesday, February 18, 2009 at 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings). Directed and produced by six-time Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Judy Kinberg and written by best-selling Robbins biographer Amanda Vaill, the two-hour film is narrated by Ron Rifkin (Brothers & Sisters), who performed the roles of both Robbins and his father in a workshop production of the director/choreographer’s theatrical autobiography, The Poppa Piece. This first and only documentary on Robbins features excerpts from his personal journals, archival performance footage, and never-before-seen rehearsal recordings, as well as interviews with Robbins himself and over forty witnesses – among them Mikhail Baryshnikov; Jacques d’Amboise; Suzanne Farrell; Arthur Laurents; Peter Martins; Rita Moreno; Austin Pendleton; Frank Rich; Chita Rivera; Stephen Sondheim; and Robbins’ Fiddler collaborators Jerry Bock, Sheldon Harnick, and Joseph Stein.

“Robbins’ remarkable body of work forever redefined dance and musical theater for a contemporary audience,” says Susan Lacy, Creator and Executive Producer of WNET’s AMERICAN MASTERS, a six-time winner of the Emmy Award for Outstanding Primetime Non-Fiction Series. “The revival of West Side Story on Broadway this winter just validates his lasting importance, his lasting impression. We are thrilled to air this film in tribute to Robbins' genius, celebrating the 90th anniversary of his birth.”




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PBS already has a companion website with some outake videos on their site (amusingly they call Charlotte d'Amboise, d'Ambrosia, though they get her dad Jacques' name right).


Kultur DVD will release the documentary (with some bonuses apparantly) in March, at least in Region 1.

It's worth checking if your local PBS is carrying the show and when--I know the Seattle one I watch often programs these specials at odd times or a few days later.

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I know the Seattle one I watch often programs these specials at odd times or a few days later.

That is a generous description!

Indeed it's pretty frustrating to see PBS become more and more bogged down with repeats of the same popular specials (framed by endless pledge drives) and have their arts programming, in particular, relegated to times nobody would watch. They had a broadcast of Carnegie Hall's Bernstein Celebration last Fall that they aired *once* at 3am. I know that as far back as their broadcast of ABT's Swan Lake a few years back, I had to do an endless search to find when it would air.

I guess because this is part of American Masters, I'm glad that we'll be getting it at a decent time. (Thanks Sandy for confirming KCTS' broadcast time) Can't wait!

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I was able to attend a pre-screening of this program attended by the producer-director and writer at the Dance Films Association's Dance-on-Camera Festival at Lincoln Center January 16th. I can highly recommend the 2hr film to all.

Of course, it's always a toss-up whether my local station will air it too. If they're in pledge then it can be delayed by several weeks, and then rarely publicized as to when it will finally be shown. (Which was one reason why I made sure to attend that early screening, despite the 4hr bus/train ride each way and expense.)

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