Great Performances: Degas and the Dance (PBS)
2003 | A coproduction of Thirteen/WNET, New York, Ideale Audience, Scorer Associates, Ltd., BBC, ARTE France, Opera National de Paris and NHK, with the participation of Musee d'Orsay, AVRO, SVT
Based on the life of French Impressionist Edgar Degas and the exhibit which honors him, Degas and the Dance is an exceptional documentary that explores some of the artist’s most famous works—his is paintings of ballets and ballerinas. In re-created scenes, we sit with Degas as he attends performances, watches dance classes, and takes full advantage of his complete access to the rehearsal rooms and backstage areas of the splendid Palais Garnier opera house in Paris. We follow his work from 1886, when his first painting of dancers, “Portrait of Mlle Fiocre in the Ballet `La Source’,” received little attention, to his collaborative exhibits with revolutionary impressionists like Monet, Pissarro, and Cezanne. Degas and the Dance makes it clear that Degas, unlike his contemporaries, was committed to painting scenes of everyday life even as he experimented with a variety of materials and techniques. Both the commitment and the technique are captured as the camera lingers on some of Degas’ loveliest works. Here, familiar paintings are made fresh and new, and less well known works take on new significance. This grand and elaborate work is the result of true collaboration, a co-production of Thirteen/WNET New York, Ideale Audience, Scorer Associates Ltd., BBC, ARTE France, Opera National de Paris, and NHK. The effort was guided by Executive Producers Jac Venza (WNET), Roly Keating and Krishnan Arora (BBC), Nobuo Isobe (NHK), Francoise Gazio and Pierre-Oliver Bardet (Ideale). Degas and the Dance was produced by Margaret Smilow and Junko Tsunashima, written and directed by Mischa Scorer with director of photography Dewald Aukema and still photographer Mead Hunt. Frank Langella served as narrator. For exploring the processes of making art using the life and work of a great artist as exemplars, a Peabody Award goes to Great Performances: Degas and the Dance.