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I rented this the other day at my local Blockbuster and was absolutely delighted. The DVD combines narration, archival footage, and interviews with original(!) members of the companies to produce a very engaging history. To clarify, the DVD is about two companies: the "Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo" and the so-called "Original Ballet Russe" company, both of which split off from the _real_ original Ballet Russe - which as all of you know was the company of Najinsky etc. - after 1929.

Everything about this DVD is first-class. The archival footage is very clean. The narration clarified many points of history about which I was very confused, including how George Balanchine bounced around like a pinball from place to place during those early years. Best of all was the contemporary footage and oral history interviews of company members. I could hardly believe how many dancers from the two companies are still around in the 21st century! We're talking WWII-era here. If this were Japan, we would declare them National Treasures. Many of them in their 80s, they are still vital and active in teaching, and in at least one case, performing! And they are still such lovely people that my heart just went out to them.

The DVD cover includes a url for more information: http://www.balletsrussesmovie.com ; do check it out, and I hope you like it as much as I did!

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The movie is now showing up on cable, and although it’s a wonderful film and we are lucky to have it, I did feel somewhat disappointed, given my high expectations. Too many talking heads (in particular, too much Franklin) talking about company politics and personalities, too little focus on dance. I hope that the dance snippets were as snipped as they were because longer clips were not available or suitable; most of them did not go on long enough for me and the poor handling of the music was bothersome. It might have been helpful to have more critics brought in to place the company and its history in a larger context and perhaps present a different view.

Slavenska was worth the price of admission. Oh, my.

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The two filmmakers actually shot hours more contemporary footage than is shown, and ALL of it is in the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. They knew they were really in a race against time, doing something that couldn't be repeated, and we should be grateful....several of the dancers (eg Alan Howard among others) have since died.

The dance snippets were cut short because otherwise the film would have been hours longer. WE could enjoy that, but the general public could not. Many of them are from Anne Barzel's collection (she also died since then) and are in a Chicago library. Many of the others are also in the NYPLPA.

I was struck by how much Franklin disliked Balanchine's work! I haven't viewed the "extras" yet.

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Slavenska was worth the price of admission. Oh, my.

Dirac, your 'oh my' is putting it mildly. She was the most unlikely Giselle I have ever seen---only caught it once, but it never left me :mad: She never gave up her glamorous image, not even for Giselle. Her flaming red hair and blindingly white tutu upon her resurrection was a sight not to be missed. The tutu glittered with tiny rhinestones, and the vee-neck of the off-the-shoulder bodice appeared to go down to the navel (I am sure it didn't, but that was the impression)...

Re: Franklin not liking Balanchine much---one needs to remember that Franklin was a Massine dancer.

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The dance snippets were cut short because otherwise the film would have been hours longer. WE could enjoy that, but the general public could not. Many of them are from Anne Barzel's collection (she also died since then) and are in a Chicago library. Many of the others are also in the NYPLPA.

I don't think that the 'general public' has to be spoon fed tiny excerpts of dancing with poorly synchronized music to make ballet palatable. The PBS documentary on Balanchine lasted about as long as "Ballets Russes" and it contained far more legible passages of dancing. The fact that the filmmakers actually had more at their disposal gives them less of an excuse. If there's more included on the DVD, that's nice. If those who care can make the expedition to the libraries to view what's available, that's nice, too. I was looking at the movie that showed up in theatres and on cable. Of course filmmakers have choices to make and not everything of value will make the final cut. But I was disappointed that a documentary about dancers had, relatively speaking, little dancing (and not as much discussion of dancing as I would have wished, either).

atm711 writes:

Re: Franklin not liking Balanchine much---one needs to remember that Franklin was a Massine dancer.

And with the passage of time, Massine's reputation has receded while Balanchine's, has, well, you know. I thought that what might be behind some of what Franklin had to say. Thank your for that vivid evocation of Slavenska. :mad:

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Although I can understand the rationale for the relatively short dance sequences, I tend to agree with dirac:

But I was disappointed that a documentary about dancers had, relatively speaking, little dancing (and not as much discussion of dancing as I would have wished, either).

This approach appeals to a strong contemporary market for, among other things --

-- nostalgia for the kind of culture high society tended to enjoy;

-- admiration of the perky, plucky elderly survivors from a time that most of us had thought was gone forever;

-- revisiting the cultural hangouts of the rich and famous during the 1920s-40s.

It's the sort of thing that Vanity Fair does so successfully. All that was missing was a scandalous divorce, murder, or child-custody dispute.

People who like that sort of thing will find this the sort of thing they like, as Llincoln is supposed to have said. And they buy movie tickets, or so it proved in this case.

But wouldn't it be wonderful to have two parallel movies? The original movie would set the context. The other version would let us focus on -- and lose ourselves in -- the dancing that was the main reason the companies were formed in the first place.

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The dvd has footage of extra dancing, but unfortunately, much of that is poorly synchronized with the music too. A passage of Giselle clearly from the second act is synchronized with music from the first act. I agree about the weaknesses of the film -- at times it seemed to be a film entirely about the intrigues of various impresarios. But at the same time some of the footage is priceless. For instance the tale of the "joys" of working with Mikhail Fokine ...

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It is great reading about people's own recollections of these dancers-from-the-past. :dunno:

Does anyone think there is ever any chance of some of this elusive film footage which is in various public libraries to be put together (or even put ON) a DVD? That would be so cool - for then the rest of us, who live oh-so-far-away (and for whom such far travel is quite expensive and out-of-the-question), could perhaps see more of the wonderful filmed dance from that time!

What has to be put into motion to get something like this to happen, does anyone know? :wacko:

-d-

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almost anything is possible but, where video production/release of dance historical items are concerned, i wouldn't think probable.

dance videos have long lagged behind the release of, say, opera vids.

with DVDs seemingly selling somewhat more successfully than videocassettes, the market may be ready to 'take a chance' on such an item as historical old films. (the rights might be a problem in some cases.)

my hunch is that the chances are really slim at best. additionally, i fear (and understand from various individuals more informed than me) that the old and fragile films themselves may well disintegrate before any effort is made to preserve and release them.

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additionally, i fear (and understand from various individuals more informed than me) that the old and fragile films themselves may well disintegrate before any effort is made to preserve and release them.

Are there any educational institutions that have undertaken a program of making at least one master copy for preservation only, or which have the facilities for such a program?

(I wonder whether the legal -- "ownership" -- issues would prevent even this.)

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i have no hard facts here but i know that money isn't abundant for such restoration/preservation and that the film stock isn't going to last forever.

i don't know of any educational institutions actively concerned w/ keeping these old documents in good order.

as for the rights, that's another can o'worms about which i know even less.

one might think that the unexpected popularity of the film under discussion here might stir some interest, but i don't know how much or how much would be enough...

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The recent reunion of ABT dancers has me wishing for a similar film on ABT...perhaps we can start a movement :(

I loved that photo of Annabelle Lyon--a much revered dancer for her portrayal as the younger sister in "Pillar of Fire"--a performance, alas, I missed by a few years. It's too bad all the dancers in the group photo were not identified.

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The recent reunion of ABT dancers has me wishing for a similar film on ABT...perhaps we can start a movement :angel_not:

After seeing Ballets Russes, I wrote to the company with the same idea. I received no response, but perhaps if enough people take up the cause. . . . How wonderful it would be to have not just one but two such treasured films.

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I didn't have any luck finding any Easter egg, even by manually inspecting the DVD's titles and chapters on a computer.

It seems to me that the R1 DVD is a better bet. It's possible that the R1 Easter Egg just appears as a normal special feature on the R2 DVD, but a chrisk217 noted, the trailer and English subtitles are definitely missing, at the very least.

In case anyone is still looking for the Ballets Russes "Easter Egg" feature, it's really easy to find. In the "Encores" section, click on "Additional Footage." Under Additional Footage, the first listing is "Dancer Beginnings." If you position your cursor at the far right side of the word "Beginnings" the image of a pair of red pointe shoes should appear. This is the Easter Egg icon. Click on the shoes and it will take you to the Easter Egg, which is extra footage of Wakefield Poole and Yvonne Craig discussing their fim and TV careers. Fun!

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longer clips were not available or suitable; most of them did not go on long enough for me

I know...I always get so frustrated when watching the truncated Black Swan Coda sequence with Toumanova :flowers: , just after her fouetees and her partner's pirouettes a la second, when she kinds of gets into a position to do a backwards step,(and that's when the clip abruptally gets cut off) and it always leaves me wondering if she was going to do the controversial sequence of sautees sul le pointe en arabesque penchee that Mme. Alonso incorporated for NBC (giving the fact that her Ballet Russes experience is a major influence on her teaching and choreographic style).

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For any Canadians currently online: The Ballets Russes film is on right now -- on Bravo. It began an hour ago and will run another hour. It is so fantastic -- I am enthralled......and in love with it all! :wub:

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