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Ballet used in "non-ballet" movies

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Not including movies that take place in a ballet company like “Center Stage” or “The Red Shoes” and those which depend ballet performance and rehearsals as essential to the plot and characters, like “Turning Point” or “Billy Elliot”.

Ballet dancers, when used as plot points in movies, have often been portrayed as victims, as helplessly promiscuous, or as flighty and unable to deal with reality beyond the stage and rehearsal hall. There have been a number of movies made based on that fiction. And I really like some of them.

“Waterloo Bridge” is one example. A real weeper, as romantic as movies get, made in 1940 with a great cast. It is a wonderful example of its genre. Vivien Leigh is Myra, the young dancer who is thrown out of the corps after spending the night with Robert Taylor on the eve on World War I. She must survive on the streets after her disgrace. But then, on the same bridge where they said good-bye (with Taylor going, she thought to a heroic death) they meet again. Once again with the world at war they are thrown together....

“Gaby” is another of the same type. It doesn’t have quite the same cathartic kick as “Waterloo Bridge”, although they were both inspired by the same play. Leslie Caron plays Gaby, a French ballerina in London who (literally) bumps into Greg, a British soldier played by John Kerr. In less time than it takes to tell they are in love, engaged, thwarted by red tape and separated when Greg is sent to invade France. Gaby gets a telegram telling her that Greg is dead—but it turns out he has only been wounded. They are reunited but before they can be married in the company of jubilant friends and family, Gaby has to confess that when she thought Greg was dead she found comfort in the arms of too many men....

One reason for this symbolic/emblematic treatment of ballerinas is their “foreignness” to popular culture—since they were so different from daily life that their stories could be both sensational but also safe when shown on screen.

There is also the edginess of the story itself, and one that was much more familiar to movie-goers in England in 1940 than it is now—the fearful intensity of loving someone while dreading the next phone call, letter or telegram. Seeing such an exotic creature as a ballerina in the same position as themselves would make the story more real and more glamorous.

Whatever the reasons (of which I have probably addressed none) for using ballet dancers in these movies, they have been some melodramatic masterpieces.

What are your favorite movies in which ballet is used, but not as the subject of the movie?

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I started a movie the other day in which Goldie Hawn portrays a ballet dancer. It was with Hal Holbrook and Anthony Hopkins.

It is set in Russia and though I didn't stick with it Goldie did

a rendition of The Dying Swan (part of it).

I remember her name has come up before as having studied ballet but I had never seen her doing anything in her movies.

I think the name of the movie is "The Girl from Petrovka".

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In the movie of Stefan Zweig's Schachnovelle, there is a ballet dancer (in the plot, I don't think the actress was a ballet dancer). We only see her dance once I think (I haven't seen the whole movie, but most of it) and it looks horrible. It was so bad I nearly screamed! It is during the Nazi period and she has an affair with a nazi officer in order to have a be a prima ballerina, but then falls in love with someone he has to interrogate, and helps him. It is a black and white german movie, and I don't know who the actors are.

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The entire Royal Danish Ballet in fairy-tale form in Hans Christian Anderson with Danny Kaye. Zizi Jeanmaire as the tempestuous diva and Erik Bruhn as a (briefly viewed) cavalier. Hans the cobbler as a pointe shoe maker. And a Little Mermaid ballet -

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A ballerina (movies generally fail to make the distinction between a ballerina and Other Rank dancers, so I'll not do so either for our purposes here) is a romantic sort of profession in the popular mind, so it makes sense that ballerinas would show up in romantic/melodramatic movies.

I'm not sure that the profession of the heroine of "Waterloo Bridge" in any of its guises is necessarily connected to her eventual taking of the primrose path. Ballerinas in movies do tend to be frail, delicate creatures, easily done in by circumstances – I think particularly of suicidal Claire Bloom in "Limelight" (dancing dubbed by Melissa Hayden) and Garbo's despairing Grusinskaya in "Grand Hotel," noted by glebb, in addition to Leigh's conscience-stricken hooker.

It was Toumanova in "Torn Curtain." I imagine that both she and Newman would like to forget all about it, however. :(

You should check out "Grand Hotel," glebb. It's MGM deploying a troupe of major stars as a sort of Spanish Armada in an ensemble drama, the ladies are in Adrian -- it's very enjoyable. They don't make 'em like that any more......

The most recent example is, I think, Almodovar's "Talk to Me," which features Leonor Watling as a ballet student, albeit a comatose one, and Geraldine Chaplin as her teacher. Chaplin gets a great last line. Upon being told that something is really quite simple, she responds, "I'm a ballet mistress. Nothing is simple."

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How true Geraldine's line is! :(

"Hans Christian Andersen" is one of my faves. I have the DVD. I used to know the daughter of the actor who played Peter. She was a very fine dancer.

Is "Grand Hotel" out on DVD? I do want to see it. I hear Joan Crawford is good too. I saw Jane Krakowski as Flameschen in the Tommy Tune musical.

"Waterloo Bridge" is a must for everyone. Myra in the train station is one of Vivien's best scenes ever!

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Of course there's a particular favorite (!) of mine, "The Howling III" (1987)

Russian ballerina/werewolf goes to Australia, searching out her mate. Some guys hunt the group (or pack) down and capture the Russian and the father wolf to do some testing. It turns out that the werewolves change when subjected to anger, fear, or strobe lights. But, this rebel doc falls in love with the ballerina, and sets her free. The military hunts them down, with their new child. Seems the two have a little marsupial and must protect it from the hunters. ALL of the hunting party's guns jam and they all get killed by a SuperWerewolf. Then they blow it up with a rocket launcher! After a short time lapse, it ends with them moving to California to become Hollywood stars, werewolves are made legal residents, and the ballerina and the doctor live happily ever after with a child of their own.

Think I'm kidding? :rolleyes:

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In the Ingrid Bergman Anastacia, the film opens in Denmark with the Royal Danish Ballet (not the real one!) dancing a somewhat odd version of Sleeping Beauty, which of course is heavily symbolic of her supposed state of mind. And of course there is the ballet in Bye Bye Birdie.

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The Fantastiks, in a brief scene "Bring it On" had a male ballet dancer audition for the cheerleading squad, The Golden Bowl with Uma Thurman, a Merchant Ivory film had a brief ballet scene

The Music Lovers, which I just suffered through, it's about Tchaikovsky, does Fantasia count?

The ice skating movie Cutting Edge had a barre scene, and my personal favorite in "Being John Malkovich"

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Everybody is good in "Grand Hotel," with the exception of Lionel Barrymore, although Garbo looks a tad unconvincing in her tutu. She has a splendid scene with John Barrymore where both of them are in peak form – it's a pleasure to see. I don’t know if it's on DVD or video, but it shows up on Turner Classic Movies from time to time, if you have cable.

I just loved the choreographer in "Bring It On." :D

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Ken Russell's "The Music Lovers" as mentioned by Calliope has a brief ballet scene (the Black Swan pas de deux with Georgina Parkinson) - quite anachronistic, but there we go.

Ballet forms also the background for the first part in "The Story of Three Loves" from Vincente Minelli. It features Moira Shearer as a ballerina with a fatal heart condition and James Mason as the ballet director who eventually kills her by pushing her to perform in one of his new choreographies.

Did anybody happen to see "The Tales of Hoffmann" from Powell/Pressburger, starring Moira Shearer, Robert Helpmann, Frederick Ashton and Ludmilla Tcherina among others?

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Yup. I have it on video, although I haven't pulled it off the shelf in quite a while. It's a curio. There's no dialogue, if I remember right, and Robert Rounseville in the title role looks lost, or maybe confused. No ballet fan should miss it, though -- Shearer gets to do more dancing than she did in The Red Shoes, and Ashton appears in the roles of Kleinsach and Cochenille.

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Yes, Marc, I saw "The tales of Hoffman". I was a tiny kid then so I dont remember much now - of course then I thought it was the eighth wonder of the world. Well, Shearer was probably good and I do remember Tcherina dressed all in black, great dramatic presence - as was Helpman. Would love to see it again... Can one find it on video?

By the way, "The red shoes" was screened on afternoon TV some time ago- I loved it as a child, but I must have grown up - there wasnt much to it. My daughter was more explicit: "Oh gawd, were they so bad in your times?"

I did not have an answer to that...

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In an "Affair to Remember", Deborah Carr's character attends a performance of the ballet in her wheelchair. I think it was suppoed to be her first social outing since her accident - and of course who does she see there but her "lost love" Carry Grant.

As for the ballet she was watching, I have no idea what it was, but it looked awful - I'd much rather look at Carry Grant!:D

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And there is "Days of Glory" which boasts the film debuts of both Gregory Peck and Toumanova---in which she played a ballerina, and I recall the scene where she enticingly handled her pointe shoes--and I could only wish that she would put them on!

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su-lian, on imdb.com I found the following production, dating back from 1995, by Claude Lelouch:


I hadn't heard about it either, though the cast includes quite a lot of famous French actors (Jean-Paul Belmondo, Jean Marais, Annie Girardot, Philippe Léotard, Robert Hossein...)

Lelouch's wife, Alessandra Martines, has one of the main roles. Giannina, was it that production? I remember reading that Martines had had some ballet training, and Lelouch seems quite interested in ballet (Laurent Hilaire played in his 1998 film "Hasard ou Coïncidences", and also Jorge Donn had a role in "Les uns et les autres" in 1981).

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