Buddy

Ballerina The Movie

35 posts in this topic

Hopefully coming to your living room soon!

A documentary of sorts in Russian with French subtitles, but also in an international edition (?), available in DVD among other things.

It features Uliana Lopatkina, Diana Vishneva, Svetlana Zakharova, Alina Somova and Yevgeny Obraztsova.

This information is from an article that seems to be a press release from the company that is making the movie.

The article is in French.

I will make an attempt at translating it after I get some sleep.

If someone else wants to give it a try before then, it can be found at...

http://www.filmstamarin.fr/filmstamarin/pa...re000101c0.html

Share this post


Link to post

Too tired right now to attempt any translation, but this really sounds amazing...

Share this post


Link to post

Thanks Buddy for letting us know about this production!

I read the company's description of the film's rationale

and it seems to be a film to look forward to.

The filmmaker is described as a balletomane and his choices of

embodiments of the "ballerina" [all Mariinsky] are interesting. For those who are described as having reached the pinnacle, Lopatkina, Vishneva, and Zakharova, there'd be few arguments.

For those 'on the way', the choices are intriguing: Obratzsova (I'm a huge fan) and Somova.

Share this post


Link to post

Thanks sylphide and chiapuris for your comments. Thanks, Helene. chiapuris, I read your fine reports from the Moscow International Ballet Competition and I believe you were quite impressed with Evgeny Obraztsova as was Natalia. Her inclusion in this movie supports your good opinion of her. I look forward to seeing her someday.

In regard to the movie there are several obvious questions. Do I want to see this movie? Will it be a DVD or something else that I can see at home? When will it be available? Will there be an edition with English subtitles? How do I get it?

In regard to the second question, if the DVD is issued in the French system, I have found that it should be viewable on your computer, which can be hooked up to your TV.

An "international version" might be viewable anywhere and have English subtitles. I will try to follow the news and relay any answers to the other questions.

"Do I want to see this Video?" From what the announcement says this is a definite Yes!

I will try to paraphrase much of this article, as it is informative and makes for very pleasant reading. For those of you who speak French, if my translation is off, please feel free to make corrections.

To begin with the movie is being made for French television by a French director, Bertrand Normand, who as chiapuris mentioned, is a lover of ballet. The movie will be 90 minutes long.

The article starts by saying that the ballerina fascinates. She practices an art that is becoming rare. (I'm not so sure about this.) There is however a land where this art is not becoming rare but in fact is flourishing. That land is Russia. Land of the research for the absolute(?). Land of the cult of beauty, of immensity and of nostalgia.

It is also a land of forgotten femininity.

Russia is "par excellence" the land of the ballerina.

(I (Buddy) was in St. Petersburg for the first time last March to see the Mariinsky Festival. I saw about half. It was excellent! While there I went to the Hermitage Art Museum (it's wonderful) several times. There were large groups of school children there. Among the teens and pre-teens, they often carried themselves and in fact looked like young ballet dancers. Boys and girls. It was different from what I'm used to seeing and was a very enjoyable sight.)

Back to the article. Bertrand Normand (director) is a lover of ballet, who for a long time has been impressed by the "singularity" of performing Russian ballerinas. He departed for St. Petetersburg to discover what makes the "unicite"(?) of these dancers and to engage in an immense film project. Through his personal research he has developed an approach to perceiving ballet, it's universe and it's power to move audiences, which he now wants to convey to the general public.

There's much more to this article that I would like to continue relating, maybe later today.

Share this post


Link to post

Thanks for posting this, Buddy. Between this & the film of Chemyakin's 'Nutcracker' (Obraztsova/Fadeev) that is being made in Paris at present, there's a lot to which we can look forward.

It is also a land  of forgotten femininity.

This is an intriguing comment by the 'filmstamarin' writer. I've heard it said by many Westerners in Russia (especially American men) but have never seen it so bluntly stated. Do others agree with this statement?

Share this post


Link to post
It is also a land  of forgotten femininity.

This is an intriguing comment by the 'filmstamarin' writer. I've heard it said by many Westerners in Russia (especially American men) but have never seen it so bluntly stated. Do others agree with this statement?

Natalia, you obviously know Russia very well and I have only been there for a week, but I do have some opinions. I may be wrong, but from observing the audiences in the 50's and 60's ballet videos , and these probably represent the more affluent citizens, there is a certain drabness. Perhaps this relates to the old dictatorial days. In Budapest and Prague as well as in St. Petersburg I have seen what seems to be a real desire by women to make themselves noticed for their physical beauty. Perhaps this was a right denied them in previous decades. Access to Western fashions designed to acentuate beauty was possibly not encouraged.

I hope I am not engaged in cultural propaganda. I do have a friend from the Ukraine who said that in the 80's under the "old system" she would sacrifice food money sometimes to buy a nice dress and to look attractive. This somewhat counters my perception that this may be a more recent social phenomenon.

In anycase many of the women in St. Petersburg, that I saw were very attractive, and many who weren't naturally beautiful seemed to go the extra mile to make themselves as attractive as possible.

My reference to the teens in the Hermitage is interesting in regard to the boys. This was not femininity, but they didn't seem to be pushing the macho image. They had a sort of graceful appearance "like ballet dancers".

The popularity of ballet is an interesting case. When you hear some men cheering with such enthusiasm an art form that really emphasizes an almost spiritual level of female beauty, it does support a more enduring idea of a "land of forgotten femininity".

Share this post


Link to post

Getting back to the article.

Ballerina recounts Bertrand Norman's quest to pass through the veil that separtes the spectator from the performing artist and also the one that still somewhat conceals this land, Russia.

This quest leads to the Mariinsky Theater, which has witnessed over the centuries the emergence of choreographers and performers "hors de commun" (exceptional).

He meets Alina (Somova), Ulyana (Lopatkina), Evgenia (Obraztsova), Svetlana (Zakharova) and Diana (Vishneva), who are the principal characters of the film.

These are women of radically different personalities. They include women beginning their careers and world famous stars. Together they illustrate the range of steps and chances taken that are fundamental to the life of a ballerina.

The "author" follows them all at regular intervals for several months.

He films them performing, practicing and at home.

He has already identified a "defie" (chalange, transition made?) for each of them relating to their futures.

There is the beginner entering the troup directly out of school. ("Alina"?)

Another is an injured star making her return. ("Uliana"?)

A rising star quits her company to better express herself elsewhere. ("Svetlana"?)

A companion artist assumes a worldwide career. ("Diana"?)

Finally a young "quadrille"(?) is becoming a movie actress. ("Evgenia"?)

Together they challenge definitions by the dynamism of their destiny.

The author has thus established a principal idea around which he constructs the architecture of his film.

"The Story Of The Ballerina Is One Of Permanent Metamorphosis".

It's different moments in her career or different instances in her overall journey. It's the changing of a young girl, studying, into a woman who lights up the stage with her grace.

It could be a new life outside of the theater.

The ballerina is constantly transforming herself and it's during this process of constant metamorphosis that her beauty becomes completely apparent.

A ballerina's art seems simple and light to the spectator. It represents however much effort on the part of the dancers. The film shows both the effort required of the artist and the grace and beauty that results.

In light of such artists, the ballet becomes more than an aesthetic entity. The ballet elicits a profound emotion in the spectator.

This Experience Sometimes Attains A Summit Where The Artist Transcends The Performance To Create Something Completely New.

Something Never Seen Before.

This 'Something' happens when the star dancers Diana Vishneva and Svetlana Zakharova perform. It happens when Uliana Lopatkina performs, possibly more so than with any other dancer.

But it's through regarding the evolution and maturing of a young dancer such as Alina Somova or Evgenia Obraztsova that the author of the film can make clear to the spectator the mystery of the flowering of such a woman.

Here he can clearly illustate the metamorphosis of her life and of her art. This is the metamorphosis of the artist of the real and of the imaginary that one calls a "ballerina."

Share this post


Link to post

Saw it last night down at Quad something on 13th street in NYC...

Some of the footage I had seen before on youtube... but it was interesting all the same. I didn't quite buy the toe shoe store bit... wondered what that was all about. Alina Samova looked better here than in the recent photographs. Made me want to see Obraztsova dance live, though... Interesting to see them in some Balanchine Rep... the Rubies looked mushy but Diamonds looked more like it... Lopatkina looks like good Balanchine raw material, after perhaps spending a year at NYCB to absorb more of the coaching. There was a blink of footage of one of them in Tchaikovsky pas de deux (no more than a run, I think), and I'm thinking it was Obraztsova... but we weren't shown her dancing in it. Felt cheated as she looked like she was going to do it justice.

Also, watching 3 people simultaneously nit-picking at Samova after her Swan made one feel for her... seems like one coach at a time should be enough for anyone to process.

Watching them auditioning the 9-year-olds, I wondered what screening they go through before they get tried out. This passel of hopefuls were all off-the-normal-charts flexible... does no one normal even attempt the audition?

Share this post


Link to post

It's running here in Seattle for a week.

I didn't quite buy the toe shoe store bit... wondered what that was all about.

That seemed very contrived to me as well. Was she just looking for a different manufacturer altogether? I thought that by the time you get to her level, you've got people inside the company that you work with.

Also, watching 3 people simultaneously nit-picking at Samova after her Swan made one feel for her... seems like one coach at a time should be enough for anyone to process.

No kidding. I was interested to see how infrequently the dancer asks questions, or even acknowledges the comments of the coach. If I remember correctly, only Vishneva seemed to have much to say in the process. The rest felt very silent.

Is it just me, or are there some awkwardnesses in the narration? I know he lived into the 20th century, but Petipa is not usually referred to as a 20th century choreographer. And does the Kirov refer to all their female principals as Prima Ballerina? (that term gets bandied around here pretty casually, and it always makes me cringe)

Share this post


Link to post

It's on my Queue List at Netflix.

Share this post


Link to post
.....That seemed very contrived to me as well. Was she just looking for a different manufacturer altogether? I thought that by the time you get to her level, you've got people inside the company that you work with.....

Not really. I've been to that particular Grishko store when leading dancers of the Mariinsky and Maly troupes come in to buy gear as well as to ask for shoes from their favorite makers or shoes with certain features that they seek. Ditto the Grishko store in Moscow.

Conveniences that you & I take for granted in the West (in Europe or the Americas) are not 'givens' in Russia for the average working people. Yes, even now, almost 20 years after the changes.

Share this post


Link to post

The DVD will be released in North America on July 21 and can be pre-ordered at Amazon. The ASIN to enter into the Amazon search box up top is B0025Z4Q4E.

Share this post


Link to post

For what it's worth, if you search for an ASIN in the amazon.com box, we don't earn commissions on it. It's an odd quirk of the system.

But the ASIN is great for confirming that you have the right product.

Many thanks for the update, volcanohunter! I'm going to preorder it now.

Share this post


Link to post

Playing at the Kendall Square Theater in Cambridge , Massachusetts, opening May 1st.

Share this post


Link to post
No kidding. I was interested to see how infrequently the dancer asks questions, or even acknowledges the comments of the coach. If I remember correctly, only Vishneva seemed to have much to say in the process. The rest felt very silent.

I'm currently doing research on Russian pedagogy, but I can say this much: The position of a student in Russia is not to argue with the authority (her coach) but to take the comments and incorporate them. There is the utmost respect for these coaches, many of whom, at least in the older generation, worked with Vaganova themselves. In another 30 years, we aren't going to have her (Vaganova's) direct students around coaching others anymore...

That said, I have seen some principal dancers here who talk back to their coaches and have done some very irrespectable things to them. Not everyone respects authority inside the theatre...

Is it just me, or are there some awkwardnesses in the narration? I know he lived into the 20th century, but Petipa is not usually referred to as a 20th century choreographer. And does the Kirov refer to all their female principals as Prima Ballerina? (that term gets bandied around here pretty casually, and it always makes me cringe)

They've used the term "ballerina" liberally and for the understanding (as i see it), of Western ears -- it's not used here (in Russia) typically to refer to just any female dancers.

Finally, just a note to say I reviewed the film for the May issue of "Dance Europe" magazine, which includes short interviews with 3 of the 5 "ballerinas', in case anyone is interested. In terms of being a "look backstage" -- this film doesnt provide that at all, in my opinion.

Share this post


Link to post
QUOTE (sandik @ Feb 28 2009, 07:46 PM)

.....That seemed very contrived to me as well. Was she just looking for a different manufacturer altogether? I thought that by the time you get to her level, you've got people inside the company that you work with.....

Not really. I've been to that particular Grishko store when leading dancers of the Mariinsky and Maly troupes come in to buy gear as well as to ask for shoes from their favorite makers or shoes with certain features that they seek. Ditto the Grishko store in Mosco

I don't understand. The dancers aren't supplied with shoes from the company? Or do they try things on in the store and then tell them what to order? It still seems strange to me. I understand coming in to buy leotards, etc... but shoes? Is it a different system and the dancers are expected to supply their own shoes?

Share this post


Link to post
No kidding. I was interested to see how infrequently the dancer asks questions, or even acknowledges the comments of the coach. If I remember correctly, only Vishneva seemed to have much to say in the process. The rest felt very silent.

I'm currently doing research on Russian pedagogy, but I can say this much: The position of a student in Russia is not to argue with the authority (her coach) but to take the comments and incorporate them. There is the utmost respect for these coaches, many of whom, at least in the older generation, worked with Vaganova themselves. In another 30 years, we aren't going to have her (Vaganova's) direct students around coaching others anymore...

I have been watching the Kirov Ballet since 1961 and have seen the Vaganova aesthetic change to such a degree perhaps influenced by the Vaganova Academy (I hope not) and the personal coaching by Vaganova's former pupils. I for one will not be sorry to see the last of some of the older teachers who had no taste in their performing and who exhibited such vulgarity, I find it hard to believe they have anything to pass on except technical tricks. I would also say that the artistic direction also needs to be questioned during the Kirov's recent history that has allowed such extraordinary distortions of choreography by senior performers.

If I go back to when the principal dancers and senior soloists included Inna Zubkovskaya, Irina Kolpakova, Alla Osipenko, Gabriella Komleva, Alla Sizova, Yelena Evteyeva etc and then see the debasing of that earlier aesthetic by the likes of Mezentseva, Zakharova, Lopatkina and Somova et al, I doubt if there is much of worth to see in any modern film on the Kirov, other than the commitment of dancers to sustain the discipline handed down to them.

The products of the Vaganova Academy in St. Petersburg at its best, are sublime technicians with a fully integrated artististic ethos. Regrettably today we are witnessing a progressive artistic dissolution of a once great company whose other acts of Philistinism is the rejection of the reconstruction of their 19th century repertoire heritage. These two aspects of the Kirov Ballet reflect errors of artistic judgement and are a combination of vulgar influences which the dancers have been led to by their artistic direction. It seems hard to believe in a country that flaunts magnificent museums which are presented with great taste, which sadly has not been extended to the Kirov Ballet

Share this post


Link to post
I have been watching the Kirov Ballet since 1961 and have seen the Vaganova aesthetic change to such a degree perhaps influenced by the Vaganova Academy (I hope not) and the personal coaching by Vaganova's former pupils. I for one will not be sorry to see the last of some of the older teachers who had no taste in their performing and who exhibited such vulgarity, I find it hard to believe they have anything to pass on except technical tricks. I would also say that the artistic direction also needs to be questioned during the Kirov's recent history that has allowed such extraordinary distortions of choreography by senior performers.

If I go back to when the principal dancers and senior soloists included Inna Zubkovskaya, Irina Kolpakova, Alla Osipenko, Gabriella Komleva, Alla Sizova, Yelena Evteyeva etc and then see the debasing of that earlier aesthetic by the likes of Mezentseva, Zakharova, Lopatkina and Somova et al, I doubt if there is much of worth to see in any modern film on the Kirov, other than the commitment of dancers to sustain the discipline handed down to them.

The products of the Vaganova Academy in St. Petersburg at its best, are sublime technicians with a fully integrated artististic ethos. Regrettably today we are witnessing a progressive artistic dissolution of a once great company whose other acts of Philistinism is the rejection of the reconstruction of their 19th century repertoire heritage. These two aspects of the Kirov Ballet reflect errors of artistic judgement and are a combination of vulgar influences which the dancers have been led to by their artistic direction. It seems hard to believe in a country that flaunts magnificent museums which are presented with great taste, which sadly has not been extended to the Kirov Ballet

Leonid, given your comments, you will be extremely interested to read the results of my many interviews and research when they are published. I will be sure to loop back here and let you know.

I am curious, how many live performances of the individuals you mention have you seen in recent years?

In the meantime, I have only been following the troupe since I first saw them as a teenager in 1990, therefore you have 30+ years on me. I have however seen the company perform here in Petersburg year-round for the past five years as a resident of Russia. And having done that, I can speak to the overall quality of the troupe and of individual dancers, not just how they may appear in a single performance abroad.

Thus, I have to interrupt you on one very important point. I believe any similarly "frequent" spectator of today's Mariinsky would NEVER lop Somova in with Lopatkina into the same category either technically, dramatically or aesthetically speaking. At least none of the Russians who have been following this troupe their entire lives, and have far more knowledge, in my experience, than any Westerner could ever hope for (from my observation), would even consider such a statement. Nor would they ever categorize Lopatkina together with Zakharova --- the two are far too drastically different as dancers. Or Mezentseva with the other three. Somova is the administration's "new Zakharova project" and as such can be set apart from the others into another universe. (I believe I saw Mezentseva dance only once, so I can only comment on her from film, which I don't think is the best measure of comparison with other live performances, so I will leave her out of the discussion for now).

Lopatkina doesnt have the uber flexinastic ability and vulgarity you speak of. And in fact many people bemoan this point, saying she isn't "good enough", which is absolutely silly. She does not distort line at the expense of level hips or proper technique. Her leg cannot reach 190 degrees in a la seconde -- whether you think that is good or bad, she physically cannot do it, she isn't built that way in her pelvis. Zakharova and Somova are. Lopatkina, however, is the purist representative of Vaganova technique in the list you mention, and she has a unique adherence to proper port de bras, epaulement and step execution at all times. I have watched the precision and attention to detail she brings to her roles onstage here, as well to her rehearsals. You would be ill-pressed to find someone who represents pure Vaganova style, accurate (usually flawless) execution, (and is still dancing) in the company today more than she does.

Somova and Zakharova are flexnastic girls, the former following in the footsteps of the latter. Unfortunately, given the Western audiences' overwhelming enthusiasm for circus tricks, the physique that Zakharova (and Guillem, in France) offered has become very popular. Somova is just the next generation of this. The administration and the impresarios bill based on audience reaction -- on what sells tickets. And so until the audience reacts to her in the way that, in my opinion, they should -- that this is not a circus, it is the ART of ballet-- until then we will continue to see her given top billing on foreign tours along with the more Balanchinean, but still "closer-to-Vaganova" technicians such as Tereshkina who at least also adhere to the basics of clean execution.

I found and spoke to many pedagogues who decry this abomination of technique (I agree with you in the specific case of Somova -- despite being slender as a colt, her port de bras and epaulement is completely absent; her legwork is sloppy at best). I was pleased to hear this resounding commentary from individuals who studied under Vaganova herself, and am anxious to finish the manuscript and get it out into print. I emphasize this because this issue is NOT with the pedagogues in all cases (as you noted). In the case of who gets on stage, the pedagogues dont have any say in that, those decisions are made much higher up.

I do agree that the administration is somewhat to blame -- but the pedagogues I spoke to are doing their darndest to instill the Vaganova tradition.

There is much more to say but if I type it all here, I won't have a manuscript left :-)

I appreciate your knowledgeable feedback and always enjoy the intellectual discussions that arise often on this board.

-C.

Share this post


Link to post

Lopatkina, in my opinion, is probably one of the few Mariinsky Ballet dancers that have a strong deference to the legacy of Natalia Dudinskaya (Lopatkina being among the last students directly trained by her), arguably the greatest ballet instructor in the history of the Vaganova Academy after 1950. After all, Dudinskaya was trained directly by Agrippina Vaganova herself in the 1920's and had a pretty distinguished dancing career herself, which unfortunately was cut short due to Dudinskaya's physical fraility.

It will be very interesting to see what Lopatkina will do in the future. Will she become a pedagogue and eventually lead the Vaganova Academy? Or are her ambitions a bit higher, possibly becoming the Director of Ballet at the Mariinsky Theatre? Based on seeing the movie Ballerina and what I've read from some of the interviews she gave at her 35th birthday in October 2008, I have my doubts Lopatkina wants to do teaching work--I see her wanting to preserve the "Kirov" legacy that her late instructor (and Dudinskaya's husband, Konstantin Sergeyev) left behind, because Lopatkina knows what Sergeyev and Dudinskaya left behind artistically is almost as important historically as what Marius Petipa left behind a century earlier.

Share this post


Link to post
QUOTE (sandik @ Feb 28 2009, 07:46 PM)

.....That seemed very contrived to me as well. Was she just looking for a different manufacturer altogether? I thought that by the time you get to her level, you've got people inside the company that you work with.....

Not really. I've been to that particular Grishko store when leading dancers of the Mariinsky and Maly troupes come in to buy gear as well as to ask for shoes from their favorite makers or shoes with certain features that they seek. Ditto the Grishko store in Mosco

I don't understand. The dancers aren't supplied with shoes from the company? Or do they try things on in the store and then tell them what to order? It still seems strange to me. I understand coming in to buy leotards, etc... but shoes? Is it a different system and the dancers are expected to supply their own shoes?

For many years now Vishneva's guest performances with companies around the world easily outnumber the ones with the Mariinsky. In recent years she even had her own touring ensemble. It's not inconceivable that a dancer who spends so much time away guesting, travelling and moving around might have to buy her own shoes at some point.

Share this post


Link to post

Ballerina is now available on DVD. I rented it through Netflix. It was well worth watching. It made me realize how ultra-competitive it is to advance to the top of a major international company. Somova looked like a totally different person than she is now. I know that Valery Gergiev is the head of the Kirov Maryinsky, but I don't really understand why he believes he has expertise in judging ballet dancers. His authority in music and opera are unquestionable, but not ballet. I hope Obratsova makes it the next U.S. tour. I've never seen her dance.

Share this post


Link to post
. I know that Valery Gergiev is the head of the Kirov Maryinsky, .... His authority in music and opera are unquestionable,

I wouldn't go that far. At the Met we have had to go through many cluelessly conducted performances of non Russian opera. Dutchman, Parsifal, Traviata (ugh), Salome , etc. I think his talents are far more specialized than his overated reputation (IMO) describes.

He does have a greater affinity for Russian opera I'll admit. For a while he also had administrative influence at the Met Opera too which also wasn't a particularly great thing in my eyes. The one exception to this is the expansion of the Met rep to include many Russian operas new to New York which I'll give him credit for. That was maybe the one big plus of his presence in NY.

Like a number of other big , starry, names in Opera and Ballet adminstration, his greatest talent is for his own self promotion. I'm glad the title he held at the Met Opera in the 90s; Principle Guest Conductor, or something like that, seems to has been disolved.

Share this post


Link to post

While I mostly agree with you, richard53dog, I think he may have saved the Kirov/Mariinsky after the fall of the Soviet Union with his energy and willingness to raise private money when the bottom dropped out of state subsidies, and I also heard an excellent "Tristan und Isolde" from him in Paris. I didn't get to see the "Ring" the company brought to NYC a couple of summers ago; I got sick on a plane returning from India the day before it started and couldn't risk coughing through it.

Share this post


Link to post

re: Gergiev. I find him very inconsistent. When he's good, it's amazing (his Sleeping Beauty score at Carnegie Hall a few years ago is a great example), but sometimes it's just...eh. Like at the Stravinsky triple bill at the Met a few years ago. I went to hear his Rite of Spring, but that was just OK. The Oedipus Rex blew me away (The stagings helped. The choreography for the Rite was boring and the staging for OR was arresting). I did think that he whipped the City Ballet orchestra into shape when he guest conducted a mixed program of Circus Polka, Jeux de Cartes, Walpurgisnacht Ballet and Firebird. The excitement spread to the dancers and it was one of the most complete pleasurable performances I've been to.

Regarding this film. I first saw it off French TV, so it's pretty cool to actually understand more of what the dancers are saying (I understand one in every seven words in Russian -- I kept on hearing the word "hard" as in ballet is a hard life.). I think it's a nice look at a crop of dancers that needs to be recorded. I loved, in the beginning, how it is shown that to be a ballerina in Russia is a very high calling. Different from here. It also shows the road the Mariinsky is going down. The tests on young applicants shown in the beginning... Flexibility seemingly is the be all and end all. I hope we missed the children being looked at for other qualities. To think that Diana Adams suggested Farrell come audition in New York because she had a special quality of movement - not that she was the most flexible (although we know, she was plenty flexible). Would a Somova have risen so quickly if these other qualities were more important? This film was also shown pre-Zakharova's defection to the Bolshoi, where I think she's matured as an artist. Obratzsova seems to be a wonderful anomaly.

Share this post


Link to post