Dancing In The Light: The Janet Collins StorySpring 2017 DVD
Today's ballet enthusiasts may celebrate Misty Copeland as the first African-American Female Principal Dancer with the American Ballet Theatre but Dancing in the Light: The Janet Collins Story, tells the tale of a previous trailblazer. She's Janet Collins and in the 1930's, she rose above the racism and barriers of the time period to become the first African-American ballerina in the country to perform a solo with the Metropolitan Opera.
This film was produced by the Sweet Blackberry Foundation, an organization founded by Karyn Parsons, well-known for her role as Hilary Banks on the '90's sit-com The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. According to the foundation's website, the organization is dedicated to "bringing little-known stories of African American history to children everywhere."
This 20-minute film opens with American dancer, actress, and choreographer Debbie Allen and the students at the Debbie Allen Dance Academy talking about their favorite things about dance. Allen then introduces the story of Janet Collins and the racism she faced. There, the animated film begins. Viewers learn that Janet's family raised her to appreciate art and culture, encouraging her interest with ballet lessons. Janet quickly excelled and, in 1934, when a Russian ballet came to town, she was determined to audition. She wowed them at the audition but afterwards the troupe's director told her she could join the ballet . . . if she agreed to paint her face white. Janet refused and instead turned her efforts to working hard, displaying talent so obvious that she could never again be denied based on her race. With command performances and even a spot on Broadway, Janet Collins made a name for herself and was eventually invited to perform with the Metropolitan Opera.
Parsons' script uses a rhyming scheme, accomplished nicely without ever forcing the words to fit the message. Narration is provided by Chris Rock, and it's backed by original music by Chris Joyner. Illustrations by R. Gregory Christie come to life with subtle animation techniques.
As a film enjoyed at home, or as a complement to a school history lesson, Dancing in the Light: The Janet Collins Story will rank high on everyone's watch list.