Nanarina

Fred Wiseman's New Documentary of The Paris Opera Ballet

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I don't find it so surprising considering that dancers are used to performing as if the audience isn't there.

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to clarify: the narcissim question, probably not made clear above, was directed generally, at the numerous individuals who appear in Wiseman's films, often saying things and behaving in ways one might not expect to be 'shown' to the camera, and not specifically with regard to the dancers documented in LA DANSE.

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As a former dancer, I especially relished this line in Denby's review: "The Ballet is a huge organism, at the center of which is Brigitte Lefèvre, the tentacular administrative head. She’s a little overbearing, and Wiseman, with evident pleasure, turns back to the dancers...."

And in reply to Hans, who wrote "dancers are used to performing as if the audience isn't there," another way of putting this would be to say that performers always act as if an audience is always there.

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Alongside the tendency of performers to perform is Wiseman's practice of taking hours and hours and hours of footage -- after a time, the subjects of the project almost forget the cameras are there.

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And in reply to Hans, who wrote "dancers are used to performing as if the audience isn't there," another way of putting this would be to say that performers always act as if an audience is always there.

Yes indeed!

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to repeat: i didn't mean to imply that anyone listening to the question noted above as posed to Wiseman made reference to the dancers themselves.

it's a given that performers are performers.

Wiseman's remark was aimed at the NON-performers in his films, only two of which concern dancers and many of which contain scenes in which one is often amazed to see how individuals behave 'on the record'- don't forget ABT director Jane Hermann's angry phone call to the Met Opera House presentations office in BALLET complete with the f-word. no one at conversation on Tues. with Wiseman was likely naive enough to be amazed at the ease or freedom of the Paris dancers as they "lived' lives for the cameras.

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it's a given that performers are performers.

Actually, there's some debate on this, I think--in that some can "turn it off" while others can't (most of whom I worked for, alas). Your point re the Wiseman documentary is clear; I still find performers by and large to be narcissistic (guilty as charged!).

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Wiseman's remark was aimed at the NON-performers in his films, only two of which concern dancers and many of which contain scenes in which one is often amazed to see how individuals behave 'on the record'- don't forget ABT director Jane Hermann's angry phone call to the Met Opera House presentations office in BALLET complete with the f-word.

This is one of Wiseman's gifts, or perhaps more accurately, a product of his skills as a filmmaker -- he captures some very naked moments in the environments he studies. It's fascinating to see when it's a world I'm familiar with -- when it's a place I don't know well, it's even more stunning.

His work is perhaps the closest to actual cinema verite that we have.

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Wiseman's remark was aimed at the NON-performers in his films, only two of which concern dancers and many of which contain scenes in which one is often amazed to see how individuals behave 'on the record'- don't forget ABT director Jane Hermann's angry phone call to the Met Opera House presentations office in BALLET complete with the f-word.

This is one of Wiseman's gifts, or perhaps more accurately, a product of his skills as a filmmaker -- he captures some very naked moments in the environments he studies. It's fascinating to see when it's a world I'm familiar with -- when it's a place I don't know well, it's even more stunning.

His work is perhaps the closest to actual cinema verite that we have.

I've always admired Mr. Wiseman, his work, and verite methods. I also admire the 'honesty' he elicits from his subjects/participants. But apropos, there are many U.S. (and European) journalistic and broadcast standards that regulate "editorial control" to prevent the subjects of documentaries from trying to control what is said, how, when, or where, or consequently turning a documentary into a "puff piece" or propaganda. So, if Mr. Wiseman followed those rules--and I'm sure he did--then, I'm not sure Ms. Hermann could have asked/or required that particular phone conversation be edited from the final production. Personally, I am glad she couldn't or didn't, and that Mr. Wiseman kept it in. It is an 'honest' view of the sometimes protracted negotiating that happens behind-the-scenes to give us the illusion of an effortless company performance. I applaud Mr. Wiseman, and ABT for that.

Unfortunately, the subject of my doc (or his lawyers?) did not understand this principle of 'editorial control' and it has taken many months of (normally unnecessary) expensive legal negotiating to convince him/them that their original request for what could and could not be shown,or veto power :off topic: , (beyond following normal standards of "privacy"), would prevent my being able to broadcast the documentary on PBS or anywhere else such journalistic standards exist.

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My Mom and I are seeing La Danse tomorrow and we're very excited. We wanted to go today but not with the Yankees parade chaos downtown.

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:off topic: Markarovafan - I hope yiou will both enjoy it, as I did. My only complaint would be that I would have preferred less of Songe de Medea, it is certainly not my favourite ballet, but I like

Marie Agners Gilot, she is a pretty good dancer, but wasted in this ballet I feel. I think Fred Wiseman's intention is to let his films speak for them selves, without the need for interviews, and in this and the ABT earlier film he seems to achieve this.

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Unfortunately, the subject of my doc (or his lawyers?) did not understand this principle of 'editorial control' and it has taken many months of (normally unnecessary) expensive legal negotiating to convince him/them that their original request for what could and could not be shown,or veto power :off topic: , (beyond following normal standards of "privacy"), would prevent my being able to broadcast the documentary on PBS or anywhere else such journalistic standards exist.

I don't understand this part of your post. What is your doc? Is it also about dance or performers?

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Ray, 4mrdncr's documentary is most certainly about dancers. On this thread, she describes some of the earlier hitches along the way -- blame them on Mother Nature. And here's a link to the trailer. <--invalid link. (See below.)

Edited by carbro
To keep readers from wasting their time in pursuit of an expired link.

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Ray, 4mrdncr's documentary is most certainly about dancers. On this thread, she describes some of the earlier hitches along the way -- blame them on Mother Nature. And here's a link to the trailer.

Thanks! But the trailer does not play--in place of a dancing figure are the words "303: failed to load a resource."

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Apologies. :wink: I now remember that 4mrdncr said she had to withdraw the trailer because it had been copied to other sites without her authorization -- in other words, copyright infringement.

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Thanks Carbro for providing the "backhistory" links to my documentary and trying to link to its trailer. I'm grateful. But actually I didn't withdraw the trailer from dancemedia.com, because I still believe it is (as I originally requested because of the contractual and copyright issues) "read only" there.

However, I did request that footage of a performance I had shot, but not released, be removed (by the choreographer who had posted it)from YouTube because of music rights issues, which I believe has now been done.

Problems viewing the Trailer, are usually due to dancemedia.com's server problems. Several times, access was unavailable because of this. I had originally thought it was non-computer-techie-me, or my ancient computer. But as you see, others have difficulties too.

Hopefully, Ray, this link will work... http://www.dancemedia.com/v/1528

I hope you enjoy it. ALL comments welcome here .

Progress Report: Rather slow, mostly due to the economy, and my need to spend time on survival rather than the film, but nevertheless, moving forward.

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Debra Levine talks about the film here in an article on documentaries with Doug Cummings.

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What a beautiful film. How beautifully shot!

I hope I haven't said too much... perhaps this should have a spoiler warning?

I was a little shocked by the Tallchief comment… one could say so many things about the dancers of earlier generations… one could say things about Nureyev after all… but why? They trained under different circumstances to different standards, it was a different world… who knows how they would have looked were they trained as today’s dancers are trained? I was less shocked even if surprised when Farrell’s mannerisms were described as flaws that now others copy, because I can see how someone who had been meticulously trained not to do those things might see them as flaws… but a little surprised all the same… ha a gauntlet been thrown down? Is there still anger within the POB that an American from outside the system was once promoted above them?

The dress rehearsal(?) comments about the young soloist sounded like headphone chatter, probably not intended for everyone (poor thing!)… just before the soloist with the fabulous beats… Was young soloist the same dancer meeting with Le Fevre? I found that whole bit hard to read… Was she being obsequious or was she just displaying a typical French girl’s speech patterns & feminine mannerisms? Couldn’t quite figure it out… Had she just been promoted? Why was she meeting with Lefevre?

Contrary to the review, I didn’t think Lefevre was so manipulative, but rather right… rather very right… she seemed to be most concerned with keeping the quality of the POB up very high, but still going forward, not becoming a museum, while acknowledging that she still needed to work within the bureaucracy of the opera … It was fascinating watching her explaining to the guest choreographer (who was that? I hope the DVD has an ID option!) that he couldn’t just watch some company classes and ask for dancers by name… but he could ask for a type of dancer and she’d give him a few to try out…

Someone felt the rehearsal masters were being mean… I didn’t, I thought they were doing their job and skillfully. It was fascinating to see how they were trying to carve even more out of a beautiful dancer’s interpretation…

Also how many different languages the dancers were being rehearsed in, apparently without translators…

The Lehman Bros visitation refusal seemed simply that one couldn’t feasibly fit 20 business people invisibly or comfortably into a rehearsal studio… (I want to say self-important business people, as there’s no reason to expect these people to make themselves small) but they were willing to let them traipse through a rehearsal space, doesn’t that seem interruption enough?

I’m going to try to take two tweens but we’ll probably be leaving soon after bureaucracy speech starts and before Medea starts killing her children… it’s a long movie for a kid. Speaking of which, will this be likely cut down before it hits DVD? Will it tour the art houses in this length?

Enjoyed Wiseman’s voyeurism… even looking in at what the cafeteria was serving…

Most enjoyed Wiseman voyeurism of the creative process, the choreographers talking to the dancers, the coaches, but especially the bit with Lefevre explaining to the guest choreographer that he couldn’t just watch a class and ask for the dancers he likes… We never did get to see how that resolved!

I didn’t think the subjects were performing for the camera… I expect it became invisible to them as has often been my experince working with dancers. I didn’t think anyone was self conscious, except well, maybe cafeteria cashier was self conscious & costume shop woman seemed pointedly absorbed in her work – but hey, wasn’t that janitor sweeping up at the Garnier graceful?

Enjoyed the modern piece with the feet at the Bastille, the one where the platform raised… What was that? Was it Romeo & Juliet?

I kept waiting for some big grand classical ballet bash… I swear there was stuff in the trailer that wasn’t in the film … Somehow I thought we’d see more of the Nureyev snow scene… Maybe I was lost in thought as it went by.

I loved seeing the Paquita footage up close… it’s always seemed to be a ballet about how much the dancers enjoy doing those steps…(as opposed perhaps to the big choreographic picture), so it was nice to have the closeness the camera allowed us as opposed to the gulf of the orchestra pit.

Interesting at how Le Fevre is trying hard to push the modern… Confounded that the students were not availing themselves of the modern technique classes offered which would help them with just the repertoire they are complaining was difficult for them to take on… I see she took courses from Merce, Taylor, Nikolais. She has choreographed before but doesn’t now?? I couldn’t find a Wikipedia page on her, surprisingly.

What was the strike about?

No one is ever seen dissing the Nureyev repertoire… One watches the cavalier variation for a few moments thinking “what is this ballet?” before realizing in shock that it’s Nutcracker! His work looks so full of steps, so difficult, often too busy, as if he choreographed it to a slower tempo in his imagination... but I rather liked the pas de deux for Clara and the Nutcracker at the end of the battle...

Movie didn’t seem to build to an ending… it just ended. In the middle. at a stopping point. of sorts. like life.

But the whole thing was so beautifully shot… if one couldn’t see the overall choreography, one could still see the dancing in choreographic phrases… the only time it was hard to watch was the song of Medea, and only where Medea has lost it… perhaps he was going for disjuncture, underlining that out of control feeling?

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I saw "La Danse" last night at Film Forum, and I loved it! I could have watched another three hours of footage about that glorious company.

I was able to identify almost all of the dancers and choreographers. But I do have two questions for sharp-eyed and informed Ballet Talkers. Who was the dark-haired female dancer with Wilfried Romoli during the Medea section that was filmed onstage and in costume? She wasn't dancing the role of Medea (not Emilie Cozette or Delphine Moussin) and I think she's in the corps rank. Also, what piece was Yann Bridard rehearsing towards the end of the film?

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FYI for anyone who's planning to see this at the Film Forum - buy tickets in advance! I live nearby and decided to stroll over to catch the 1:30 PM showing. Got there at 1 and IT WAS SOLD OUT! So was the 1 PM showing of The Red Shoes. Good for them, maybe they'll book some more ballet films.

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Dance Actress - Could you give a rundown of who was dancing what? Or who the choreographers were? Once again I had to leave before credits ran...(I had children with me and we had a 3.5 hour drive ahead of us). I see names of choreographers but not who choreographed what. I'm embarrassed to say how ignorant I am, but would love to know who was who... I gather the foot thing at the Bastille was Sasha Waltz, who was the choreographer discussing casting? Who was the choreographer chanting Indian rhythms? Who were the old coaches?

I took my 11 yo & her 12 yo friend... to the films credit they wanted to stay through to the end...

I amend my statement that the film just ends... it ends with some absolutely incredible dancing, but it's a solo... for some reason I expected something with a full cast for the end...

Also, now I understand that the young girl meeting with Lefevre was probably replacing the older dancer in the pas de trois she wanted to drop. I could have sworn the older dancer said she was having trouble with pointe and jumps in her interview, but didn't hear it go by this time.

What was the strike Lefevre was talking about?

NY Susan... I totally agree with you. We went @ 5:30 yesterday and the line for people already holding tickets was out the door... a half hour before the film started!

Every seat has a full view of the screen, of course, but if you expect to find two seats next to each other, do not arrive 10 minutes before screen time!

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Amy Reusch,

I'll do my best! Here are the ballets, the dancers, choreographers and coaches that I recognized in no particular order:

"Paquita"- in the studio, the principals were Agnes Letestu and Herve Moreau, coached by Pierre Lacotte and Ghislaine Thesmar (the older couple- I believe they're married- he mentioned Suzanne Farrell's flaws)

- onstage and in costume, the principals were Dorothee Gilbert and Manuel Legris dancing the Grand Pas

Classique

- onstage and in costume, Marie-Agnes Gillot delivers superb fouettes

- the male dancer in the Pas de Trois was Matthias Heymann

- two of the female dancers in the Grand Pas were Fanny Fiat and Muriel Zusperreguy

"Casse-Noisette"- in the studio, the principals were Laetitia Pujol and Jose Martinez, coached by Florence Clerc (I think) and

Patrice Bart in separate scenes

- Nicolas Le Riche dances his Act II solo in the studio

- there was a group rehearsal of the Clara/Cavalier Act II Pas de Deux- I glimpsed Manuel Legris, Dorothee

Gilbert, Nicolas Le Riche, Laetitia Pujol, Karl Paquette, etc. - Laurent Hilaire and Elisabeth

Maurin were the coaches

- onstage and half in costume, the principals were Laetitia Pujol and Nicolas Le Riche

"Romeo et Juliette"-choreographer, Sasha Waltz

-onstage and barefoot, Aurelie Dupont and Herve Moreau

"Medee"-choreographer, Angelin Preljocaj

- in the studio, Emilie Cozette danced the title role, coached by Laurent Hilaire

- in the studio and onstage, Delphine Moussin danced the title role

- Wilfried Romoli dances Jason

"Genus"- choreographer, Wayne McGregor (bald and Scottish, I think)

- in the studio, Matthias Heymann and Mathieu Ganio, later Marie-Agnes Gillot and Benjamin Pech

- onstage in black leotards, Matthias Heymann and Myriam Ould-Braham, Jeremie Belingard, and towards the end

of the film, Agnes Letestu and Mathieu Ganio

"The House of Bernarda Alba"- choreographer, Mats Ek

- onstage and in costume, Manuel Legris was Bernarda Alba, and amongst the women, I recognized Marie-Agnes

Gillot and Laetitia Pujol

I'm pretty certain I've left out a lot of people, so the above is verrry rough! I wish Mr. Wiseman had identified people! I would have hated to see this film not knowing anything about the dancers, the repertoire, and the hierarchy.

Does anyone know who the choreographer was discussing casting with Brigitte Lefevre? And was Stephane Bullion dancing McGregor's piece? I'm sure I saw him...

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Thank you SO MUCH!!! I wondered if that might be a House of Bernard Alba and a Romeo & Juliet! So that's Wayne McGregor! I liked the costumes for Genus...

Was it Matthias Heyman who did the effortless batterie then? Though there were many examples of superb dancing.

Do you remember the waltzing ballroom ballet? What was that?

I don't mind there not being text onscreen identifying people & choreography, because I understand that would change the way we saw the movie... this was much more dream-like or silent observer... I'm not sure exactly how to describe why, but I do think identifying would change the experience... but it would have been nice at the end to give a quick rundown with images during the credits... BUT I wasn't free to wait & watch the credits, so for all I know everything WAS identified there...

It would be nice if it were an option on the DVD.

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I believe that that was Heymann with the effortless batterie. Laurent Hilaire comments off-camera on his technique during the Paquita pas de trois- "indecently easy", is how he put it, I think. Although I also remember my jaw dropping for Le Riche and Martinez during the Nutcracker variation.

The waltz scene is from "Paquita".

You're right- the uniquely voyeuristic quality of this film would be lost if captions were added. I stayed for part of the credits and it just looked like a general list of the company by rank. So I don't think you missed much in terms of clearer identification of the featured dancers, choreographers, etc.

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