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Body Type in Moviesso very curious\lost


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#1 Nouvelle

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Posted 11 June 2005 - 08:11 AM

Now I haven't really gotten the hang of the body type thing, as I'm rather new to the ballet world, so this may be rather boring or just plain silly for most people... Sorry! :flowers:

There was a comment or two about body type for "Turning Point" in the Anne Bancroft thread that made me rather curious about a few things...
What non-dancer actors\actresses have played ballet dancers in films have done so convincingly without the body type?
What about those with body type but didn't do such a great job in portraying a dancer (acting and\or technique)?
Also, how has the body type evolved and how much is that change (if any) taken into consideration when looking at dance movies, especially those of the past? (I ask this because ballerinas from years gone by seem a bit, I don't know, a little less "lean" than some tody)


P.S. - Sorry if this is in the wrong spot or has been discussed. I did a search and didn't really find anything besides a comment here or there with not much explanation. :D

#2 Old Fashioned

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Posted 11 June 2005 - 01:15 PM

I can't answer your questions, but I was just recently thinking about actresses portraying ballet dancers in films and how their body types are more or less convincing as dancers.

Julia Stiles- neither convincing in body type or acting in Save the Last Dance.

Leonor Watling- could very well be a dancer, but I only hear Pedro Almodovar refer to her as an actress in the director commentary for Talk to Her. She doesn't look at all out of place among the Nacho Duato group while stretching at the bar, although we can only see her upper body. She has the "look" of a dancer.

Geraldine Chaplin- made a convincing ballet mistress in Talk to Her. Very elegant.

Greta Garbo- we never get to see her dance in Grand Hotel, so it's hard to say. editing to add When I think about it now, her body wasn't the right type. She has those (lovely) hunched shoulders. Her acting, however, is unsurpassed. I would have likely been disappointed in a Grand Hotel remake with Margot Fonteyn in the Garbo role.

#3 Mel Johnson

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Posted 11 June 2005 - 01:55 PM

Chaplin had had extensive ballet training in her youth. So she knew something about the business.

#4 Helene

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Posted 11 June 2005 - 03:30 PM

Did Charlie Chaplin, too? There was a moment in The Circus when after having run up some kind of pole, he sees the heroine -- the daughter of the greedy and cruel circus owner -- opens his arms, and makes a couple of such beautiful gestures, I am convinced he was ballet's loss.

I recently saw a movie at the Seattle International Film Festival called Saving Face, which was about a brilliant young Chinese-American surgical resident, Wil, played by Michelle Krusiec, who falls in love with her mentor's daughter. I'm not sure if the actress who played her is Lynne Chen, but in any event, her character, Vivian, is supposed to be a ballet dancer who took a year off from New York City Ballet to "follow her dreams" as a modern dancer, and is mulling over an offer from the Paris Opera Ballet. (From what I'm reading in the POB forum, possibly based on her modern dance career...)

While being a stunningly gorgeous young Asian-American woman -- and, in this role, a seductive girly-girl to boot -- with a typically thin, small-boned body (even on screen), the actress playing Vivian is proof that despite having the body type, without the form and carriage, it is extremely difficult to play a ballet dancer convincingly. (Oh, but wait, maybe one year of modern dance undermined the first 20 years of ballet training completely.) In one scene, she tries to teach the reluctant Wil how to fall -- get it? -- and is even more unconvincing attempting a port de bras. (Oh, but wait, maybe one year of modern dance...)

#5 Mel Johnson

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Posted 11 June 2005 - 04:37 PM

Although Sir Charles Chaplin was often profound in his own personal movement, and a shrewd observer and user of other people's, he doesn't seem ever to have studied ballet, per se. W.C. Fields used to refer to him as "that goddam ballet dancer." His work in Modern Times, City Lights, The Gold Rush, and most particularly "Sunnyside" (often thought to be a parody of Nijinsky's "Afternoon of a Faun") seems to suggest the kind of movement genius that would have made a splendid ballet dancer. Sort of like Jean-Louis Barrault.

#6 Old Fashioned

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Posted 11 June 2005 - 05:29 PM

Chaplin had had extensive ballet training in her youth.  So she knew something about the business.

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I thought she would have, but she expressed timidity about the scene where she's teaching class to the professional dancers.

#7 dirac

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Posted 13 June 2005 - 10:39 AM

Buster Keaton's battement was very impressive, too.

Good question, nouvelle. I would say that the dancer of today is farther away from the typical "look" of a movie star than in previous eras. (In fact, some of the real dancers in "The Red Shoes," made in 1948, don't look like their modern counterparts.) To give one example, movie stars often have heads that are rather large in relation to their bodies, and with dancers it's often the reverse. I remember seeing Janet Eilber years ago in the film version of "Whose Life Is It Anyway?" and her long limbs and small, elegant head singled her out as a real dancer, not just an actress with a little dance training playing a dancer -- the difference between her and the other actors was quite obvious.

Body type is less important in films, IMO, than the illusion the actor is able to create. As hockeyfan228 noted in the Bancroft thread, Anne Bancroft didn't have the stretched limbs of the real dancers she acted with, but she was able, through her body carriage and her demeanor, to convey the impression of a prima ballerina. You knew she was somebody, and somebody with a special awareness of her body and how she presented herself. (Although I do think the role might have been more effective with a true dancing Emma.)

I thought Vivien Leigh looked lovely as a ballet dancer in "Waterloo Bridge," although it was wise not to show her at the barre. :FIREdevil: (Moira Shearer and Leigh shared a general physical resemblance.) Claire Bloom had the grace of a dancer in "Limelight." Melissa Hayden was her dancing double, but the director and star Charles Chaplin made Bloom take ballet lessons to prepare for the role.

Old Fashioned, I thought Garbo looked pretty ridiculous in her tutu, but although she didn't convince you she was a ballerina, you knew she was a star, and an artist.

Leonor Watling isn't a dancer, I'm pretty sure. I don't think Almodovar cared -- he didn't need a real dancer for the part, and for the purposes of the role, Watling's beautiful skin and "flesh impact" are more important.

#8 Helene

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Posted 13 June 2005 - 11:20 AM

(Although I do think the role might have been more effective with a true dancing Emma.)

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My favorite role in the movie was the cameo played by Antoinette Sibley. I think her line was something like, "And that's why I will never end up like Emma."

#9 GWTW

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Posted 13 June 2005 - 01:01 PM

I thought Vivien Leigh looked lovely as a ballet dancer in "Waterloo Bridge," although it was wise not to show her at the barre.

Vivien Leigh always looked like she had the equivalent of a ph.d. in deportment - even (or especially) as Blanche Dubois. Before her acting career took off, she did some modelling and in those days (the '30s) models were supposed to stand up straight and not slouch.

IMO Neve Campbell didn't look like a ballet dancer in The Company. She was too earth-bound.

#10 dirac

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Posted 13 June 2005 - 03:32 PM

Leigh was a lady born and bred, although this created certain limitations for her. (Kenneth Tynan said she approached Shakespeare’s Cleopatra “with the daintiness of a debutante called upon to dismember a stag.” Not quite what was needed. :) )


Neve Campbell just didn’t look right. I feel bad saying it, knowing how hard she prepped for the role and considering we owe the movie's existence largely to her, but her body’s all wrong and she doesn’t move that well.

I’m still not sure what Ilia Kulik was doing in Center Stage, but he looked all right, although he was not called upon to dance.

#11 Mme. Hermine

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Posted 13 June 2005 - 03:43 PM

i figured he was there for his accent and his "nostrils"... :)


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