Dance In America: NY Export: Opus Jazz
About the Film

In 1958, Jerome Robbins’ “ballet in sneakers,” NY Export: Opus Jazz, became a smash hit when it was broadcast on The Ed Sullivan Show and toured around the world. Set to an evocative jazz score by Robert Prince and abstract urban backdrops by Ben Shahn, the dance told the story of disaffected urban youth through movement that blended ballet, jazz and ballroom dancing with Latin, African and American rhythms to create a powerfully expressive, sexy and contemporary style. Now, the work comes full circle in a vibrant new film adaptation, conceived by New York City Ballet soloists Ellen Bar and Sean Suozzi, that is shot on visually dynamic locations around New York City, premiering Wednesday, March 24 at 8 p.m. on Great Performances: Dance in America (check local PBS listings).

Watch a preview:

Great Performances is a production of THIRTEEN in association with WNET.ORG – one of America’s most prolific and respected public media providers.

Despite all the success and visibility of its debut, the intervening decades have found Opus Jazz infrequently performed. The concept of taking this little-seen ballet and adapting it for the screen in a modern, real-world context was the brainchild of two New York City Ballet soloists, who, while dancing the ballet, found that it had urban themes and a contemporary relevance that spoke to them. “Sean and I danced Opus Jazz at the New York City Ballet revival in 2005,” explains Bar. “We thought the ballet seemed a bit dated in its 1950’s trappings, but the themes that came out in the dancing — the energy and raw emotion of urban youth — were just as relevant today as they were then.” Mr. Suozzi adds that because the ballet is danced in sneakers, instead of toe shoes, it seemed especially fitting to be filmed on location. “We decided to put our dancers in regular clothes, instead of costumes,” says Suozzi. “It makes the dance even more accessible. Ballet doesn’t have to be a mysterious art form — it’s our most natural, visceral expression.”

Enlisting filmmakers Henry Joost (Catfish) and Jody Lee Lipes (Brock Enright: Good Times Will Never Be The Same, Afterschool), Bar and Suozzi set out to make the most ambitious dance film in recent memory — the first to return Jerome Robbins’ choreography to the streets of New York since the movie version of West Side Story. Shot in widescreen 35mm film format, this on-location adaptation utilizes New York City locations like the pre-renovation High Line, McCarren Pool, Coney Island, Red Hook, and Carroll Gardens as backdrops for the five very different movements of the ballet. Scripted interludes between the dance scenes draw the audience further into the lives of the young, restless characters, all played by dancers from the New York City Ballet. “Acting out rage and delight through Robbins’ carefully cultivated steps, the cast demonstrated the pent-up emotions of a new generation,” raves The New York Times of this film (read the full review here). The stylized cinematography captures the majestic landscape of New York City as well the subtle beauty, energy and sensuality of the dance piece. The resulting film is a unique and compelling 43-minute abstract narrative that highlights the form, structure and energy of the dance, while embodying the raw emotional experience of urban youth.

Following the dance film is a 10-minute documentary by director Matt Wolf (Wild Combination: A Portrait of Arthur Russell) and Anna Farrell (Twelve Ways to Sunday) that recounts the history and summarizes the enduring significance and appeal of Opus Jazz. Choreographer (and original West Side Story dancer) Eliot Feld, Sondra Lee (one of Robbins’ original “Opus” dancers), along with other Robbins’ friends and colleagues join the current cast of dancers to contextualize the cultural and historical importance of Mr. Robbins’ career and NY Export: Opus Jazz.

Great Performances has been bringing the best in American dance to public television viewers via the Dance in America series since 1976,” says Executive Producer David Horn. “WNET was very fortunate to be able to collaborate with Robbins during his lifetime on several landmark productions for television. So we are proud to serve as the broadcast partner for this film, and we are confident the adaptation will make an impact on today’s generation, as it has on generations before.”

Written for the screen by Jody Lee Lipes and edited by Zac Stuart-Pontier, NY Export: Opus Jazz was produced by Kyle Martin and Melody Roscher. Great Performances is funded by the Irene Diamond Fund, the National Endowment for the Arts, Vivian Milstein, the LuEsther T. Mertz Charitable Trust, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, public television viewers and PBS. Major funding for NY Export: Opus Jazz was also provided by the Jerome Robbins Foundation, Emily Blavatnik, Chandra Jessee, Gillian Attfield, Arlene C. Cooper, Judy Bernstein Bunzl and Nick Bunzl, Marty and Perry Granoff, and Nancy Norman Lassalle. For Great Performances, Bill O’Donnell is series producer and David Horn is executive producer.

  • Lynne Hunter

    Hello,
    I would love to be able to see NY Export: Opus Jazz but my local PBS station is not airing it. Can I view it online?

    Thanks,
    Lynne Hunter

  • RUTH DOERING

    i don’t know if my PBS station in Phoenix Arizona is playing this.

    it soundslike one of the best things Great Performances will do.

    I would love to be able to view this on line as I thought it was one

    of the great ballets that the great Jerome Robbins choreographed.

    Please keep me posted as to whether we can see this on line. Many thanks,

  • diana white

    Congratulations to all. Special kudos to Henry Joost! I too would like to know if this can be viewed on line. Thank you.

  • Cher

    I would love to see this. I am an avid fan of Jerome Robbins. Is PBS Hawaii airing this? Could it be watched online? Please advise. Thank you.

  • DChudacoff

    How wonderful for a son and his father! Bravo!

  • LOLA

    I am very upset becuase it would not be air by PR local PBS associate channel<<<is a shame one of the dancer is actually from PR, he grew there and many people have contacted me complaining…please make happen soon… thank

  • danny

    I am absolutely livid that opus jazz is not playing on pbs in fort worth! I have waited almost 3years to see this film I have been following its creation and now that it is airing I still am not able to see it!!!!!! When will it be on and why is it not on nation wide???

  • judy

    I am in Jackson Hole Wyoming and can not believe the local PBS station is not carrying Robbin’s NY Opus Jazz!!!
    I guess I will have to wait until the first week in August when New York City Ballet will be bringing a chamber group out to Jackson Hole for the first time.

  • Carolyn

    Not carrying it on the Buffalo channel either. Really upset. I realize sometimes performances are shown online (not sure about this time). However, I live in Canada and repeatedly get messages showing that since I am not in the US that I am not authorized to view. Especially unfair since Buffalo actively recruits members from Toronto and purports to be a joint Buffalo-Toronto station.

  • Jennifer

    Zippo in CT as well. Here’s hoping it will appear in full on the Great Performances Web site, because that’s the only way I will get to see it.

  • Sam

    I would love to purchase a DVD of this show for my daughter. What a great program!

  • sasha

    Where can I get a copy of this film?

  • Kara

    I hope this is released on DVD soon. It’s fantastic! Something I’d love to watch over and over. Plus, then all areas who aren’t airing it would be able to see it as well.

  • B.J.

    Am amazed to read the number of places this is NOT being shown! Guess Arizona isn’t the cultural wasteland I sometimes accuse it of being! Am looking forward to this evening’s broadcast.

  • Justin

    Glad to have gotten it in Milwaukee! To bad for all who have missed. Would like to watch again and again as well. When will whoever answer for when it will be or can be watched online? Or video, that would be a nice.

  • Pat

    I am watching IPTV enjoying Dance in America young in New York. I’d love to get a CD of the performance. Can I?

  • nadya

    unfortunately, we only have one tv, and i cannot watch it. will it be rebroadcast or available online??
    thanks.

  • malu

    Sooooo bad it wasn’t air in Puerto Rico…. I was dying to see Giovanni, my good friend son.

  • Mary

    Fantastic! Not only a as a dance piece but as a film! I’ve read about Opus: Jazzt for years. When will it be available on DVD? I feel so lucky that I’m in the NY metropolitan area so I was able see the wonderful 21st century version but parts of the original footage. Thanks, WNET!

  • jerry

    Having just seen it on PBS: Amazing! Timeless! Evocative! New! Fresh! Innovative! Engaging! Transformative! Profound! A celebration of life, youth, individuality, community, nature, love, singularity and intimacy! Don’t miss! True, pure Art! A masterful and current adaptation! Moving! I am reborn!!

  • Barb

    Just saw it and it was well worth the wait! Terrific piece of work; can’t wait to see it again.

  • Douglas

    I REALLY have to see this reenactment, engagement, work of art… If one does not have access to digital television, however, has internet capabilities, how soon will the Opus be available to view online or via dvd purchase or itunes?

  • callista mccaig

    I DO NOT WANT TO MESS UP THIS PRESENTATION WITH A BUNCH OF WORDS, SO I CHOOSE 1, MAGNIFICENT. WHERE CAN ONE SEE THIS AGAIN, IN A THEATER, A DVD? PLEASE!!

  • Neal

    Just watched “Dance in America: NY Export: Opus Jazz,” an exhilarating experience of dance, music and highly original filmmaking. Would love to complement our DVD of “Jerome Robbins: Something to Dance About.” Like others before me, I hope a DVD will be available soon. Will you let us know by e-mail?

  • Lindsay

    Can I buy this??????? It was phenomenal!

  • Teresa Boguta

    ust saw it tonight.
    It was sublime. the settings were perfectly matched with the dance. it was a seamless flowing in and out of the dance moves the angles, the rytham of the editing. what a breathtaking piece. the intervals in=between, the silences and coming together of the dancers from the city and those meditative moments was captivating. just loved the how the pieces came together, never have i experienced jazz so visually and intensely. thank you dancers, jerome brown, those with the vision to bring this great work to us at home, in our pedestrian little evening rituals, washing the pots, clipping our toenails on the couch when BANG – we are transported to a new way of being.
    thank you . teresa boguta

  • Rob Ankrom

    Amazing beauty sometimes comes in unexpected forms: I am usually not into dance that doesn’t involve a stack of
    singles and an eventually nude female, but this was simply stunning. It defiantly has a West Side Story vibe (which I love). Is it available on DVD?

  • Paula Amyot

    Will this be available for purchase? I would love to have a copy of such a fabulous performance!

  • crystal

    What a great film! The choreography was brilliant and entertaining and obviously very influential in the art of dance. The dancers were beautifully brilliant as well. I was so grateful to see this on PBS!

  • cheryl

    I am a high school dance teacher and would love my students to see this, will it be re-played on TV in Charlotte North Carolina any time soon.?? Or can they see it online??
    I caught the last 25min. on March 24th and just loved it. So much history as well as great choreography and the dancers were lovely. Just a great opportunity for a teaching moment!! Thank you in advance.

  • Arthur

    Saw this last night on PBS. The most exciting, excelerating, and cool cinematic captures of dance on film I have seen since the first time I saw the film version of ‘West Side Story’. Simply amazing. Can’t wait to see it again.

  • Chip

    Breathtaking. One of the best pieces of dance I’ve ever watched on television.
    WIll NY Export Opus Jazz be available on DVD? I hope so.

  • Alison

    Congratulations! What a wonderful new interpretation of how dance can be shot and presented — breaking through the restrictions of stage walls. What a great tribute to Jerome Robbins.

  • janet farb

    can i watch this online, or will it be repeated, i missed it! i would love to see it.

  • Shannon Garry

    Phoenix’s PBS was 8-2 for me…

    This was FABULOUS!!! I was mesmerized. I also am very anxious for a DVD copy to come out. Does anybody know if I can find a copy of the original version online or preferrably to purchase?

  • Margaret Doty

    I echo the question asked by so many before me…will this be available by DVD for purchase, or online somewhere?

  • JMH

    KERA in Dallas,TX didn’t air it either, and doesn’t have plans to…so disappointing. Thank-you for the online excerpts, this looks amazing!

  • Samuel Monte, Seattle, WA

    I have been a dancer for about 32 years and this was something I had never seen before. I sat in my living room mesmerized and I thought, this makes sense. This puzzle fits.

    Ayn Rand would have said, “PERFECT”.

    GOOD JOB!!!

  • Jamie A.

    I stumbled across this on IPTV last night, and was glued to the set. At first I thought it looked like a university student production, and I thought WOW! They’re great! (Took me a while to realize what I was watching.)

    Anyway, does anyone know what the piano score was during the last few city scenes (when dancers were finished)?

    Thanks!

  • John L

    Loved it. Was it my DVR or were there digital artifact/dropout problems throughout? I watched it on 13 via DirecTV.

  • Jed

    I would love to purchase this film or show it to someone online, are either of these possible?

  • Tara Karnes

    I want to watch this, will you replay it next month?, or make it available on line?

  • Michelle Ross McGregor

    I know that I am not alone when I say that I loved watching this on wednesday, I hope that you air it again, or make it avialable on line, either way it captivated me and reminded me why I love dance soo much.

  • Ben

    Please make this available in DVD. Fantastic performance!!!!

  • Mick

    I was really excited when I heard about this – I’m in London, UK – and hoped it would be available on-line, but it isn’t. I now understand that the BBC was offered it – they have a perfect platform in their BBC4 TV channel – but whoever is responsible for commissioning there doesn’t “get” it. Oh please! Now I’ve got to wait ’til it’s put out on DVD in Europe. If I lived in the brilliantly named Jackson Hole, Wyoming, I’d at least have the anticipated joy of seeing the NYC Ballet Chamber Group in August. Woe is me.

  • Kimberly

    I stumbled upon this film while it was showing today (Sunday) and am in LOVE. It’s absolutely stunning, and very relevant. I also wrote a blog post on this work if you’d like to check it out:

    http://hurraykimmay.blogspot.com/2010/03/crushing-on-ny-export-opus-jazz.html

    Thank you for showing such an amazing work of art!

  • AVM

    Our evening was culminating and all of the company in our home was arrested by the moving images. Thank you. We are all interested in sharing what feels like a timely discovery.

  • Oakmilana

    Words are inadequate – original, absorbing, aesthetic, 4-dimensional. WHEN will it come out on CD????

  • lvumdly

    A fantastic performance. Great performance. I hope that it will come out on DVD.
    It will be a prize piece in my DVD library!!

  • Tom Byrne

    I’m still buzzed from watching this presentation on WHYY in Philadelphia. I only saw a part of the film as we had an appointment that we had to make. If this is rebroadcast or available for sale, I’m definitely, positively interested. Thanks. For those of you who love dance and didn’t get to see this, OMG, it is soooo worthwhile, one of a kind, jazz and ballet and modern and warehouse dust, all brought together on film flawlessly. I’ll never forget this experience.
    Tom Byrne, Lamberttville, NJ

  • Jaime Roussard

    Please show this again in Buffalo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • D. Block

    Please make this available online through purchase or whatever means, but don’t let us luckless folks go without the chance to see this piece! Please!

  • Emmie

    Is this available to buy on DVD?

  • Ellen

    To everyone asking about DVD – we hope to have it out by the end of November! Visit http://www.opusjazz.com for news, updates, and to sign up for the mailing list.

  • angelo

    is this old school street dance?i love it!!

  • Ellen

    THE DVD IS NOW AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER! Comes out November 23rd!

    http://www.factorytwentyfive.com/ny-export-opus-jazz/

  • Ellen

    Dear Jed, the DVD is now available for pre-order!
    http://www.factorytwentyfive.com/ny-export-opus-jazz/

  • Ellen

    Dear Lynne, the DVD is now available for pre-order and comes out on November 23rd, in time for Christmas!
    http://www.factorytwentyfive.com/ny-export-opus-jazz/
    Best,
    Ellen

  • Ellen

    The DVD is now available for pre-order, it comes out November 23rd in time for Christmas!
    http://www.factorytwentyfive.com/ny-export-opus-jazz/

  • Ellen

    The DVD is now available for pre-order and will be released November 23rd – in time for Christmas!
    http://www.factorytwentyfive.com/ny-export-opus-jazz/

  • Ellen

    The DVD is now available for pre-order and will be released November 23rd in time for Christmas!
    http://www.factorytwentyfive.com/ny-export-opus-jazz/

  • Ellen

    The DVD is now available for pre-order and will be released November 23rd!
    http://www.factorytwentyfive.com/ny-export-opus-jazz/

  • Ellen

    The DVD is now available for pre-order and will be released on November 23rd – in time for Christmas!
    http://www.factorytwentyfive.com/ny-export-opus-jazz/

  • Ellen

    The DVD is now available for pre-order and will be released Nov 23rd in time for Christmas!
    http://www.factorytwentyfive.com/ny-export-opus-jazz/

  • Ellen

    The DVD is now available for pre-order and will be released Nov. 23rd in time for Christmas!
    http://www.factorytwentyfive.com/ny-export-opus-jazz/

  • Ellen

    The DVD is now available for pre-order and will come out November 23rd in time for Christmas!

    http://www.factorytwentyfive.com/ny-export-opus-jazz/

  • Ellen

    The DVD is now available for pre-order, and will come out November 23rd in time for Christmas!
    http://www.factorytwentyfive.com/ny-export-opus-jazz/

  • Ellen

    The DVD is now available for pre-order and will be released Nov 23 – in time for Christmas!
    http://www.factorytwentyfive.com/ny-export-opus-jazz/

  • Ellen

    The DVD is now available for pre-order and comes out on November 23rd!
    http://www.factorytwentyfive.com/ny-export-opus-jazz/

  • Ellen

    The DVD is now available for pre-order and will be released on November 23rd!
    http://www.factorytwentyfive.com/ny-export-opus-jazz/

  • Ellen

    The DVD is now available for pre-order and will be released Nov 23rd in time for the holidays!
    Order here:
    http://www.factorytwentyfive.com/ny-export-opus-jazz/

  • Ellen

    The DVD is now available for pre-order and comes out November 23rd in time for the holidays!
    http://www.factorytwentyfive.com/ny-export-opus-jazz/

  • Ellen

    The DVD is now available for pre-order and will be released Nov 23rd in time for the holidays!
    http://www.factorytwentyfive.com/ny-export-opus-jazz/

  • ayla davis

    umm hey. when i went to saratoga for nysssa i saw opus jazz the film and on stage. and i must say its one of the best things ive seen there and ive been going there for the past 4years. i rember this dance over most of the ballets ive seen by the nycb. its amazing.

  • http://hds5z.com Marge Payenda

    Thanks for the information on that. I wrote it off as merely another price, but I am about to look at it yet again.

  • Kristian Jaurigue

    Always one step ahead Fi Well done! Beautiful imagination made possible!x

  • Hyacinth Chernoff

    Ahh My balding head and Saidys bright white butt! Its a wonder the stage lights didn’t flood this scene!!!

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