The American Indian Film Fest kicks off with a pair of ballet-dancer biographies
Maria Tallchief—bound for PBS after its festival screening, a fact that's evident in its straightforward style—spends ample time contextualizing its subject's importance not just as a dancer during one of ballet's most historically significant periods (stateside, anyway) but also as a Native American woman proud of her Osage heritage.
Black-and-white archival footage illustrates her considerable gifts, with testimonials from peers and observers (and Tallchief herself) recalling the thrilling life of a talented artist.
More contemporary is Gwendolen Cates's Water Flowing Together (also bound for PBS), which focuses on recently retired New York City Ballet star Jock Soto, one of the last dancers to work with Balanchine. Part Navajo Indian, part Puerto Rican, Soto—who also happens to be gay—is shown from his teens through his 40s, earning praise along the way from seemingly every ballerina he ever partnered, as well as from choreographers like Christopher Wheeldon, who saw him as an inspiration. For a guy who was initially told he didn't have the body of a dancer (and whose dad bought him blue fishnet tights for his first ballet class), Soto's impact on the dance world is shown to be immeasurable.