Ballet battles and women who live in the future

This week on TV.

January 31, 2016 10:37
3 minute read.
'Bolshoi Babylon' TV review

'Bolshoi Babylon' TV review. (photo credit: PR)

Ballet companies are rife with intrigue, usually revolving around which dancers get the best roles; and if every dissatisfied dancer threw acid at his or her company’s artistic director, there wouldn’t be too many left unscathed. But one dancer actually did take this extreme step.

In 2013, Bolshoi Ballet dancer Pavel Dmitrichenko hired a thug who tossed acid in the face of the director, Sergei Filin and was sentenced to six years in prison.

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While his arrest and punishment are not surprising, one aspect of the trial was that dozens of his fellow dancers testified to argue that Dmitrichenko’s action was understandable, even justified.

This saga is the backdrop for Bolshoi Babylon, a documentary that will be shown next month on YES Docu as part of a special February program of dance movies.

Bolshoi Babylon will begin airing for free on YES VOD on February 21 and will run until February 27, and will air on YES Docu on February 21 at 10 p.m. and will be rebroadcast on February 27 at 9:40 p.m.

Even those who are not particularly interested in ballet can enjoy Bolshoi Babylon, which has been shown at some of the most prestigious film festivals in the world. It presents the conflict and violence at the Bolshoi as a kind of microcosm of Putin’s Russia.

A Ballerina’s Tale, the story of the American Ballet Theater principal dancer Misty Copeland, tackles a different kind of controversy. Copeland is the first African-American woman to become principal dancer at a major international dance company, although there have been several African-American male principals, most notably Arthur Mitchell at the New York City Ballet in the 1950s. But ballet has been dominated by whites, and African-Americans who tried to break through to its highest levels were dismissed with comments about their unsuitable physiques that sounded more than a little racist. Copeland, who overcame a disadvantaged childhood and a career plagued by injuries to break the color barrier, is still haunted by critics who say that her vigorous self-promotion (in addition to the movie, she has written a book, appeared in ads for sports apparel and made numerous talk-show appearances) intimidated ABT’s management into promoting her. The film airs on February 23 at 10 p.m. and February 27 at 7 p.m.

Other dance films showing include Our Last Tango, a love story between two of the world’s most celebrated tango dancers, which airs on February 22 at 10 p.m.; Tap World, a look at the popularity of contemporary tap dance, which airs on February 24 at 10:10 p.m.; League of Exotic Dancers, which lifts the curtain on the now-vanished world of burlesque, on February 25 at 10 p.m.; and Maiko: Dancing Child, about the struggle of a Japanese prima ballerina in London to return to dancing after she gives birth, on February 26 at 9:30 p.m. All will be available on YES VOD.

Sci-fi series revolving around women are rare, but two will be airing on HOT, starting in February. The series Extant, starring Halle Berry as an astronaut on a solo mission who comes back to earth pregnant, had an uneven first season. The details of this world, just slightly in the future, were often brilliant.

The problem was the ancient alien-baby plot, plus an unintentionally creepy subplot about a lifelike robot child. Season Two begins on HOT Zone on Saturdays at 9:45 p.m. starting February 6, and free on HOT VOD.

Now that the alien spawn is running loose, Extant looks more and more like a Roger Corman movie from the 1960s but with incredible production values.

The far more original and brilliantly acted Orphan Black stars Tatiana Maslany as a streetwise young woman who is drawn into a bizarre world of supernatural intrigue when she witnesses the suicide of a young woman who looks just like her. It’s impossible to say more about this without giving away the key spoiler. The long-awaited third season debuts on HOT Xtra Free VOD on February 24, along with the first two seasons if you need to catch up.

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