The best new dance films to make your heart leap

A love letter to a lost performance, a flower-robot duet, a mythical creature at bay – there’s thrilling movement in store in the latest pick of online dance

Empty Stage

Benjamin Scheuer’s song Empty Stage, written on a street piano while walking through shutdown London, is turned into the story of an art form on hiatus. Scheuer soundtracks footage of rehearsals and preparations for Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Cinderella, a show that never was. What could be cheesy turns out to be a lovely and heartfelt film, given a bit of magical and theatrical flourish by directors Roseanna Anderson and Joshua Ben-Tovim of Impermanence dance company.

What Does the Future Look Like?

The Place’s What Does the Future Look Like? festival includes a collection of short films covering isolation, connection to nature, gender identity, race and mental health. It’s an eclectic mix, but the mood is often meditative, from the relatable – the four dancers of Sarah Golding’s Transit 20, alone at home in the UK and South Africa, connected by experiences and choreography – to the unnervingly, intriguingly out-there in Antonio Branco and Riccardo T’s fetish-influenced Post Apocrine. Available until 28 March.

What Used to, No Longer Is

Antoinette Brooks-Daw in What Used to, No Longer Is.
Antoinette Brooks-Daw in What Used to, No Longer Is. Photograph: Emily Nuttall

Premiering on 19 March, What Used to, No Longer Is features new choreography by Mthuthuzeli November for Northern Ballet. Shot on stage, it seems like a preview for a longer ballet rather than a dance film exactly, but it creates a world that feels both ancient and futuristic with its cosmic backdrop and robot/alien/floral costumes, as the two dancers writhe, glitch and swim through the space. There are two other films already released in the season: Northern Lights, with dancers on rooftops and rain-licked cobbles and a slo-mo music video sensibility; and the lockdown antics (and sultry underwater scenes) of Kenneth Tindall’s Have Your Cake.

Dark Full Ride

Scottish Ballet has released a new recording of a 2013 piece from Martin Lawrance, Dark Full Ride, driven by the score of the same name by Julia Wolfe. There’s thrilling energy in the music, written for four drumkits, while Lawrance brings measured musicality, order and clean geometry to the choreography, giving space for the frenetic texture of Wolfe’s score. Available until 31 March for Scottish Ballet members (it’s free to sign up).


A fascinating film in tone and concept from Trey McIntyre, inspired by the myth of the Minotaur. English National Ballet’s Daniel McCormick is in battle with himself, bristling with pressure, violence and conflict as well as beautiful quality of movement, all intercut with archive film of bullfighting and lava flowing (very Adam Curtis). The location, which looks like a building site but is former bus garage Hackney Depot, offers numerous surprising spaces for McCormick to conquer. Part of McIntyre’s FLTPK platform where there are lots of other films to see, too.

Of Simple Stone

A poem of emigration and homecoming by Liam Porter provides the anchor for this short film by Irish choreographer Brian Gillespie and B-Hybrid Dance. Three dancers move between rhythmic, angular phrases and snaking expression, but the real star is the majestic setting: Grianan of Aileach, a hilltop fort in County Donegal. It’s a vast ring of stones in a great, green landscape, captured in epic swooping aerial shots. A vicarious rush for anyone in urban lockdown.


Lyndsey Winship

The GuardianTramp

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