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'The Dance Goodbye" Documentary on Merrill Ashley

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I just got a heads up about this documentary on Merrill Ashley's transition from dancing to her next life; First Run Features is taking pre-orders for a documentary


The pre-order discount is 35%.

Here is the Facebook Page for the film:


The film was reviewed in 2012. An early, nearly 5-minute, trailer posted to the page in October 2012:


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I just finished watching this 55 minute film. It has lots of great clips of Merrill dancing-Ballo, the 4Ts, Agon PDD, PDD from Flower Festival. These clips are impressive and show how differently Balanchine is danced now as opposed to when he was alive. My husband, who never saw NYCB when Balanchine was alive,looked at the Agon clip and said despairingly, "I've never seen THAT Agon". These clips have some interviews preceding or following them with people like John Meehan and Jacques D'Amboise.

While we get a short bio of Merrill and how she started dancing, the film gets pretty quickly to the topic at hand - Merrill's retirement and career transition to teacher and coach. We see Merrill at 1year after retiring, then 21/2 years, and so on, up to 10 years. What's too bad is that the most recent interview was quite awhile ago, in 2010. The most extended segment of Merrill teaching is showing her coaching Alexandra Ansanelli, who is not only no longer with NYCB (she left years ago) but is no longer dancing herself. So that part seems very dated. It would have been nice to see Merrill doing something more current like coaching Olga Smirnova in Diamonds. Even the class we see Merrill teaching at the Mariinsky has Evgenia Obratsova (who moved to the Bolshoi about 4 years ago) in it.

On the plus side, Merrill is very candid about how hard and emotional it was to retire and how nothing, not even occasionally playing character role (like Madge) can give her the same pleasure as dancing did. How teaching and coaching don't give her the same pleasure as dancing did. She goes through all the injuries she had, how they affected her dancing and finally led her retire. We see her make the big decision to have hip replacement surgery and then recover from it. What's best is how frank and open Merrill is about all this. So a big thumbs up for the film, even though I wish it had more current material.

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