Ballet and modern dance are the fine arts that have benefited most from Blu-ray technology. I've written a review with screenshots for all 71 Blu-ray ballet or dance titles (available by August 1, 2014) that meet our basic quality standards and earned a grade higher than "D."
We have the best resource on the Internet for this niche of the entertainment market. Statistics from our Squarespace host suggest that many readers are interested in ballet and dance. So keeping up with dance Blu-rays is a high priority here. This "hit-parade" story may help get the word out.
First I list my 10 favorite Blu-rays of traditional ballet works. Then I name my 11 favorite contemporary dance titles. No graphics here---I name my picks and give you links to our reviews.
The top four are my super-favorites; then follow 6 titles in alphabetical order:
1. Swan Lake. Nureyev. Agnès Letestu and José Martinez at Paris Opera Ballet. This was the first fine-arts title published in HD and remains the best.
2. The Sleeping Beauty. The Russians spend about a billion on renovations to the Bolshoi. This SB was the first production in the reopened house. It's splendid.
3. Romeo and Juliette. McMillian. The Royal Opera House has 2 recordings out now of this---get Tamara Rojo and Carlos Acosta.
4. Raymonda. La Scala. Surprise! This has the grand adagio of the pas classique hongrois, considered by many to be the greatest scene from all of Petipa. There is no competition for this disc, and anyone with a serious interest in ballet has to get it.
5. La Bayadère. Grigorovich. The second grand new production at the Balshoi to be released in Blu-ray.
6. Cinderella. Wheeldon. Dutch National Ballet with wife and husband team of Anna Tsygankova and Matthew Golding.
7. Don Quixote. Ratmansky. Again the Dutch National Ballet with Anna Tsygankova and Matthew Golding. Don Quixote usually puts me to sleep. Still, I picked this in part because the balled is so popular. The Don and Sancho Pansa are played by famous comic actors with no dance experience, and that helped me stay awake.
8. Giselle. If you can only buy one Giselle, it has to be this one from the Paris Opera Ballet. But I like to show Act 1 from the Royal Opera House disc with Alina Cojocaru and then switch for Act 2 to the Paris Opera Ballet. This can give guests a bit of jet-lag, but they soon get over it.
9. A Midsummer Night's Dream. Balanchine at the Pacific Northwest Ballet. Good example how a regional company can do a grand job.
10. The Nutcracker. There's lots of runner-ups, and the winner is Tomasson at the San Francisco Ballet.
Modern Ballet and Dance
The top four are super-favorites; then follow 7 titles in alphabetical order:
1. The Little Mermaid. Neumeier. San Francisco Ballet. Proves that a ballet company with modest resources can compete with the titans. An astonishing performance by Yuan Yuan Tan gives this title a level of spirituality that is often present when you see a person dance live, but is hard to capture in a recording.
2. Orpheus and Eurydike. Bausch. Paris Opera Ballet. Old myth and music; surreal dance and theater. The only ballet I know of that has a opera singer teamed up with the dancer for each major role. Everything is mysterious and exquisite.
3. La dame aux camélias. Neumeier. Paris Opera Ballet. The la traviata soap-opera story again, this time to music of Chopin. Wonderful dancing by Agnès Letestu and Stéphane Bulllion. Everything is so gorgeous and elegant---the only time in my life I caught myself drooling over dresses.
4. Metamorphosis. Arthur Pita. Need a dancer to portray a huge, dying cockroach? Has to be Ed Watson. Perfect example of how a small group of dancers and a solo musician can come up with something both charming and profound. Maybe has the only pas de deux in history with one partner unconscious.
5. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Wheeldon. Royal Opera Ballet. Fresh take on old book with charming performance by Lauren Cuthbertson.
6. Amelia. Édouard Lock film. Unique world of Lock logic captured in a famous film that you can now enjoy in your own home.
7. Bodas de sangre and Suite flamenco. Gades. Teatro Real in Madrid. Probably the best recording ever of serious flamenco works.
9. McGregor Triple Bill. Wayne McGregor. Royal Opera Ballet. Includes Chroma, a piece that has terrified dancers all over the world. (Will my company try to do that?).
10. Petite Danseuse de Degas. Bart. Paris Opera Ballet. New ballet with a curious tie-in to the art of sculpture. I wrote this review using the voice of Marie van Goethem, the real little girl whose pathetic life is depicted in the ballet. Going to Paris? Watch this title and then visit Marie at the Musée d'Orsay. See if you can hold back tears.
11. Siddharta. Preljocaj. Paris Opera Ballet. Beautiful, stately, modern rendition of the Prince Siddharta story.
For children, get the Tales of Beatrix Potter by Frederick Ashton at the Royal Opera Ballet.