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Ballerina The Movie

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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.

A friend rented a condo on the beach in West Seattle, and not having a TV at home, I immediately turned on his TV and channel surfed. Luckily, the "Four Seasons" section from what I think was the 1957 TV version of the Ashton "Cinderella" was being played on the Classic Arts Showcase. As I was watching the seasons dance, what struck me most was how strong their center was, no limbs reaching only out into space. I think Ashton is doomed without dancers with that kind of center from which the limbs move naturally.

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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,...

There is no doubt that he saved the Kirov/Maryiinsky.

It also helped that he has a close personal relationship with Vladimir Putin.

See http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/15/magazine/15gergiev-t.html

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Gergiev also had a close relationship with Alberto Villar, who during the boom years of the 90s donated substantial amounts to various cultural institutions, including the Kirov. As you may recall, Villar was convicted of federal securities fraud and is now serving time in prison here in the U.S. I recall reading that Gergiev helped Villar post his bail when he was arrested.

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I just finished seeing the film on DVD and I find it fascinating the extraordinary competitiveness for various dancers to get various dancing roles. You can tell that Ulyana Lopatkina--who had just come back from a serious ankle injury during the film's production--had a lot of clout with the Mariinsky Theatre management. I can really see Lopatkina becoming Director of Ballet at the Mariinsky after her dancing career ends--that's how influential she has become.

However, I am hoping that Normand does a sequel documentary, because right now I would love to see more into the newer, fast rising stars at the Mariinsky: Ekaterina Kondaurova and Viktoria Tereshkina, both of which (in my humble opinion! :D ) are heading for the type of super-stardom in ballet that Lopatkina now enjoys.

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The first time I saw this, it was mostly in French and Russian with Japanese subtitles, and I could understand only Gergiev and the gist of what Legris was saying. While I was happy to see it with English and narration and subtitles, it's amazing how much of the dialogue came across by body language and tone of voice.

The "Scheherezade" clip is one of the few times I've liked Lopatkina's dancing. The contrast between Zakharova on stage and in interviews is striking; here the dialogue explains it. Overall, it is still Obratzova's dancing that comes across to me most clearly and vividly, and I hope to see her live one day.

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After watching this film I wonder if dancers really make for good film subjects. Their lives seem rather limited to hard work and endless rehearsals, and most of them are rather private people. On a related note, for the first time ever this summer I went a couple times to the stage door and met a few ABT dancers. On the whole I was surprised by how these flamboyant, charismatic performers onstage offstage were on the whole very quiet, withdrawn, if all very polite. I see this in the film "Ballerina" too -- only Obraztsova has the kind of outgoing, talkative personality that makes for a good film subject. Normand seemed unable to penetrate the layers of reserve in the other dancers. This isn't like "Elusive Muse," in which the filmmakers were able, I thought, to get Farrell to open up in a frank and compelling way about her life.

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After watching this film I wonder if dancers really make for good film subjects. Their lives seem rather limited to hard work and endless rehearsals, and most of them are rather private people.

I think these dancers didn't necessarily make for good film subjects, although Vishneva came across with star-like quality. It could be because younger dancers have everything to lose by speaking publicly. I could listen to Farrell, Tallchief, Kistler, Danilova, Hayden, Baronova, d'Amboise, Russell, and Tchinarova (Finch) talk forever, and in the instances where I've seen them filmed backstage or coaching, they've been great. (I like hearing Kent, but not in huge doses.) I've never seen them in extensive film interviews, but dancers like Christensen, Sibley, and Gable, to give a few examples, fascinated me in "Striking a Balance", and Lynn Seymour comes across with a distinctive voice in her autobiography, "Lynn".

I found the coaches in the "Ballerina" film the most interesting.

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Helene, I think you're right -- those dancers are all retired, and more likely to open up about their lives and career in a candid way. But Normand seemed unable to get very close to his subjects for whatever reason.

I also compared this film to "Etoiles," a film about the Paris Opera Ballet, that for some reason I found much more interesting. I particularly remember how harsh Claude Bessy appeared in that film.

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Helene & Canbelto, I totally agree with your points. Of the two films, "Etoiles" seemed to get to the bottom of each Paris Opera principal's personality & motivation. For me, the

most insightful interview was Osta's in her dressing room. Furthermore, "Etoiles" closed the circle with the retirement performance of Elisabeth Platel's Sylph, and the company reception afterwards.

Normand stated at the time that he wanted to capture the different stages of the professional life of a Maryinsky female dancer. Both Somova and Obratzova weren't too forthcoming, but Obratzova was indeed the most "on" and animated of the two. True, when a dancer is just starting out, and they aren't established, they have to watch what they say. They won't open up. Obratzova admitted this with a nervous smile. She said, ". . . it's hard to know what others think of you. You may think things are alright, but they aren't necessarily. You have to be careful." The established primas, Uliana, Diana and Sveta didn't seem to volunteer anymore than what was asked by Normand.

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Cygnet, I think the difference with "Etoiles" was with that film I thought I got a much better picture of life as a dancer in the POB, for better or for worse. I did feel that Normand only skimmed the surface with "Ballerina." Part of being a good documentarian is being able to penetrate the subjects, and I didn't think Normand was all that successful on that front. Perhaps younger ballerinas do have to watch what they say, but I know that soon after the film was made Zakharova defected to the Bolshoi and afterwards gave some harsh interviews about the reasons she left. None of that discontent (which must have been brewing) is caught on film. Vishneva and Lopatkina are also ballerinas I've seen not mince words in interviews, so I think a better film could have been made.

Another very good documentary about a ballet company is Frederick Wiseman's "Ballet."

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