My exposure to ballet as a kid was limited to field trips to see a local production of The Nutcracker, a trip to the movie theater to see that weird film version of The Nutcracker starring Macaulay Culkin, and watching Mickey’s Nutcracker on Disney Channel, which featured about five seconds of ballet. My exposure as an adult is limited to those uncomfortable Bolshoi Ballet ads that you sometimes get during Noovie. My point is, Ballet Now probably wasn’t made for me, but I found it accessible through my love of other theatrical arts.
This new Hulu documentary centers around Tiler Peck, Prima Ballerina at the New York City Ballet, who is chosen as the first woman to curate Los Angeles’ Ballet Now celebration. Her bold vision combines ballet with other dance styles like tap and hip-hop, with just a few days to hire dancers and put the entire performance together. Also, she has to star in every dance number, learning dance styles that don’t naturally fit within her discipline.
In 75-minutes, the documentary rushes through the enormous task of putting this show together. It encapsulates the “Hurry up and wait” lifestyle of theater performers and juxtaposes frantic and stressful scenes against subdued moments where Tiler finally gets to eat something or has physical therapy for the injuries she is forcing on her body through for her art.
The subject matter is interested enough, but falters in the editing. It quickly shows a montage of Tiler’s early life of performing, but following her through this hectic schedule doesn’t allow the viewer to connect with her in a meaningful way. The editing also makes questionable choices, like showing a scene where it seems like an artist in the show gave the sound designers the wrong audio queues, but is never confronted about it. With all the footage surely left on the cutting room floor, why set something up that has no payoff? Another oddity is a moment where she’s upset that “The sailors” aren’t at the theater yet. They are never shown to have arrived, nor are they featured in the montage of the final performance, but then they suddenly appear when the entire cast is hugging and celebrating. What happened to the sailors?
Ballet Now isn’t bad, but it has almost no impact on a casual viewer who isn’t passionate about this dance art. It never connects you to the person at the center of the story, missing an opportunity to attract new fans through Tiler’s story. Produced by Elisabeth Moss from The Handmaid’s Tale, Hulu subscribers can view Ballet Now starting July 20th.
I give Ballet Now 2 out of 5 pas de bourees.
Alex has been blogging about Disney films since 2009 after a lifetime of fandom. He joined the Laughing Place team in 2014 and covers films across all of Disney’s brands, including Star Wars, Marvel, and Fox, in addition to books, music, toys, consumer products, and food. You can hear his voice as a member of the Laughing Place Podcast and his face can be seen on Laughing Place’s YouTube channel where he unboxes stuff.