Parents' Guide to

A Ballerina's Tale

By S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 9+

Engrossing dance docu introduces powerful role model.

Movie NR 2015 88 minutes
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Copeland's place in ballet history -- and American history -- comes to life in this engrossing documentary. The movie mixes beautifully filmed segments of Copeland dancing some of her biggest roles with interviews -- both with her and with those who know her on and off stage. The movie also explores ballet dancers' joys and sufferings and their determination in the face of physical and societal challenges (including racism) to perform to their utmost ability. A stress fracture that develops at one of the high points of Copeland's career is devastating to discover, especially (as she puts it) considering the importance of the path she's blazing; her subsequent long recovery elicits both worries and cheers.

All of that said, even though we hear from Copeland herself and get an inside look as she navigates the ballet world, at times there's a certain remove to the film. Some of the most emotional moments feel like they're unspooling at a distance, and the discussion of race relations in ballet deserves more time and footage. (A memorable scene, much too short, has Copeland running through dance movements with one of the important African-American dancers who blazed the trail for her, Raven Wilkinson.) But ultimately A Ballerina's Tale is not only instructive but inspiring.

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