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Bonnie Rosenstock
Movie Reviews
United States
New York City
New York
New York, NY

Tribeca Film Festival: The Long and the Shorts of Dance Bring Enlightenment and Empowerment

by Bonnie Rosenstock
May 15, 2019
New York, NY
The 2019 Tribeca Film Festival (April 24-May 5) is the jewel in the crown for a city that offers a vast wealth of cultural gems. The TFF categories are impressive and extensive but include only a few dance-related films. The following three, two shorts and one full-length, represent both women and men taking control of their lives in different ways.

“Ballet After Dark”
Directed and Written by B. Monét
USA/Documentary/ 2019/13 minutes

In October 2012, Tyde-Courtney Edward, who is African-American, was coming home from work, got out of her car, put her headphones on and was completely unaware of her surroundings when she was hit on the head from behind, passed out, dragged into the woods, brutally raped and left for dead.

At first, she was lost and let herself go. But through her first love, ballet, which she had been studying since childhood, she began to take back her life. As she said in the film, “Because ballet is a discipline created for royalty, it made sense to infuse something into my recovery process to make me feel regal, make me feel strong.”

“Ballet After Dark” recounts Edwards’s remarkable journey of self-healing and empowerment with the creation of Ballet After Dark to help survivors of sexual abuse and domestic violence through dance, “out of necessity after surviving my own attack,” she said. “There was nowhere to go to soothe my soul.”

She began leading healing workshops with people like herself and is now partnering with the city of Baltimore to work with families who have survived all kinds of trauma. She said, “Learning to teach others to respect their body and space, those are things I’m interested in teaching them right now.”

In its 13-minute narrative, it packs a punch and expresses a world of inspiration through Edwards’ story as well as the affirmations of the people she has helped. The beauty of Colleen Kwok and Tyler Davis’s cinematography also speaks volumes, as they capture women of all ages and body types reveling in performing glorious dance.

“I want Ballet After Dark to be synonymous with healing,” Edwards said. “I want to create a global network of survivors who can rely on each other and discover their journey of healing.”

“Ballet After Dark” will be available on HULU, with future distribution still being determined. Don’t miss it.

“A Woman’s Work: The NFL’s Cheerleader Problem”
Directed by Yu Gu and written by Elizabeth Ai
USA, UK/Documentary/2019/85 minutes

Cheerleading has everything to do with dance. Just watch these fabulous ladies putting in grueling hours rehearsing and performing on the football field. These hard-working, talented women, with years of dance training starting in childhood, worked their way up to the top of their game as NFL cheerleaders. But once they got there, “there” didn’t pay them. The NFL industry garners more then $14 billion a year in revenue; the Commissioner makes $34 million a year; water boys average $53,000 a year; referees earn $205,000; and ball boys around $50,000. Cheerleaders earn a few thousands dollars for an entire season, which averages about $5 an hour.

The documentary focuses on two courageous women—ex-Raiderette Lucy Thibodeaux-Fields with the Oakland Raiders and ex-Buffalo Jill Maria Pinzone with the Buffalo Bills—who brought historic class-action lawsuits against the NFL for wage theft and illegal employment in 2014. The film takes us into their years of rigorous training, their personal lives with their families and their professional lives as cheerleaders with all its rules and regulations: “volunteer” work at fundraisers without compensation; fines for being late and other infractions; mandatory attendance at all rehearsals for which they don’t get paid; dismissal for weight gain. The film also presents the ins and outs of the long drawn-out legal process, the history of cheerleading and the vocal opinions of football fans and former cheerleaders, who are divided on compensation or any pay for that matter.

The upshot: The Buffalo Bills management suspended the cheerleading squad shortly after the lawsuit was instituted. The Raiders have settled their suit and the Raiderettes will now earn $9 an hour, plus overtime. Currently, one-third of the NFL teams are being sued by their cheerleaders.

“Hard-ish Bodies”
Directed and Written by Mike Carreon
USA/Narrative/2019/8 minutes

A plus-size male stripper (Mike Carreon) is on a birthday call as a police officer in rip-away shorts. He knocks on the wrong door and finds himself literally dragged into a criminal enterprise, complete with hooded hostage, two Russian thugs and a bag of money. His only chance to save himself is to dance, which he improvises hilariously to the enchantment of the female member of the dangerous duo, who throws money at him. He in turn throws glitter into their faces and escapes with the money and saves the strip club where he works from bankruptcy. Like “The Full Monty” and “Magic Mike,” this fun short says something about the joy that dancing brings no matter what your body type.
Screen Shot from 'Ballet After Dark'.

Screen Shot from "Ballet After Dark".

Photo © & courtesy of Ballet After Dark/HULU

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