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Ballets Russes

Who's in It: Dame Alicia Markova, Frederic Franklin, Nathalie Krassovska, George Zoritch

The Basics: The Paris-based, Russian refugee–starring Ballets Russes' history in interviews and jaw-droppingly beautiful archival footage is enough to make you a ballet fan.

What's the Deal? If nothing else, this doc makes a great case for never retiring. The people on display here are so ancient, you could call them post-old, but you can tell from watching it that getting them to sit still long enough to be interviewed about their glory days in the most famous ballet troupe of the 20th century was a task. They all act like they're ready to go dance Swan Lake again right now.

History Minute: The Ballets Russes was started by Diaghilev in Paris in the early 1900s. People like Nijinsky, Balanchine, Picasso, Miró, Matisse and Stravinsky collaborated on projects through its brightest moments in the 1930s and '40s. The company died in the '60s, the victim of competition and internal mismanagement.

Coolest Old Person Award: Krassovska, who died earlier this year, started as a child and kept dancing and teaching dance until she was nearly 90. In every scene here, the 80-something lady is prancing around in a leotard with her hair in that tight ballet bun. So don't go around talking about how exhausted you are ever again.

Ballet Is Boring and for Chicks and Gay Guys: What if they called it "Musical Basketball" instead? Then you'd probably want to watch this movie, right? Well, then, that's what it is — it's a grueling sport set to music, practiced by iron-spined people who could give you the beat-down if they felt like it. But we live in a land in which beautiful automatically equals soft. We're dumb that way.

How Much It Feels Like "Culture" Homework: Not even a little.

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