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for dance fans it's a memento of ABT during the period.

Indeed -- I have the same response to Turning Point, and I have a feeling that Red Shoes filled that same function for the ballet audience of its time.

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True, although it may be worth noting that the ballet audience was smaller at the time of The Red Shoes, which was a huge international hit (and actually introduced many people to the art form). Even today, as the only ballet film to achieve classic status, it's often seen by non-dance fans who wouldn't otherwise seek out a ballet film.

Desmond Kelly also shows up and Lynn Seymour, sporting aviator sunglasses, coaches "Giselle" in a room that's not terribly brightly lit. There's also a "Thomas" Rall in a featured role.

Dancers is a tough proposition to sit through, however. It comes in at just around 90 minutes and seems looooooonger. Even Nijinsky was better. I respect the late Herbert Ross's dedication to bringing ballet stories to the screen, but.

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But both Dancers and (to a lesser extent) Nijinsky give us footage of performances we otherwise don't have. Dancers has considerable footage of Baryshnikov and Ferri in Act II of Giselle and Nijinsky has some of the reconstructed Sacre and Faun. Given the paucity of recordings of legendary dancers, this alone makes them worthwhile.

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I agree in principle, California, but it doesn't make those two movies any easier for this viewer to watch. I thought there was little if anything in those two movies to equal the best of the dance bits even in The Turning Point. Theoretically Dancers should be worthwhile for the extended Giselle footage, and I guess for historical reasons it is, but on the evidence of it I don't think Baryshnikov and Ferri were keeping Bruhn and Fracci up nights.

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If I recall correctly, the Rite of Spring choreography used in Nijinsky was MacMillan's, only dressed Roerich's costumes. The film was made several years before Hodson's reconstruction.

I don't know if it's the Macmillan, but it was indeed made before the Hodson/Archer reconstruction, and that's part of its value for me -- it's a window onto what we did and didn't know at the time about that work, and about the other Diaghilev era works that are shown in it.

I taught dance history for several years in the 80s and 90s, and was always scrambling for some kind of visual material to support the kinesthetic and pure text description that I could give my students of historic works, and I still have a kind of gratitude to these earlier film and video examples, as inaccurate as they may be.

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I took a look at the film's credits, which list MacMillan as the choreographer of Rite and Jeux.

MacMillan's original Chosen Maiden, Monica Mason, played Maria Piltz in the film. However, the Kenneth MacMillan web site states that his "choreography was based on the archival evidence of the 1913 original and not on his own production for the Royal Ballet."

http://www.kennethmacmillan.com/ballets/all-works/1977-1992/nijinsky-reconstructions.html

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"Dancers" is now available for streaming on Tubi - it's "free" if you have Comcast. I gave it another try and it actually got worse. As before, plot is unbelievable and not terribly savory -- aging roue's flirtation with a nice young girl helps him get his artistic mojo back when the girl flees in hysterics.

Baryshnikov is presented as this irresistible dreamboat, but his blandishments seemed fairly resistible to this viewer. However, the nice young thing is very similar to Emilia in The Turning Point as described by Gelsey Kirkland - an ingenue with nothing between the ears, and in this case childlike to the point of idiocy owing to ployt requirements -- and  maybe she would fall for this stuff, especially as this man is the star and big boss. I guess Ross and Kaye thought it would be a good idea to give Misha another such filly to munch on. (Leslie Browne plays one of Baryshnikov exes in the company, which is depicted frankly as a harem for the star.)  The young Julie Kent looks exquisite but her nasal whine destroys the effect whenever she opens her mouth.

Still nice to see all the ABT personnel of the era, of course.

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16 minutes ago, dirac said:

"Dancers" is now available for streaming on Tubi - it's "free" if you have Comcast. I gave it another try and it actually got worse. Plot is unbelievable and not terribly savory -- aging roue's flirtation with a nice young girl helps him get his artistic mojo back when the girl flees in hysterics.

 

This was the last performance of Baryshnikov in Giselle. Similarly, his performance of Le Jeune et la morte in White Nights (1985) was his last performance of that ballet. I remember discussion at the time that he was trying to record as much as he could of his repertoire before he fully retired from classical ballet. So, for all the flaws in that movie (and I agree, they are many), at least we have a record of an historically great dancer in an important role. Also nice to have footage of Ferri in Giselle

Another historical tidbit: they were in a rush to finish this film, as Nora Kaye was dying (and died before the premiere of the film). She, of course, was married to director Herbert Ross. 

Edited by California
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And the emphasis is very much on Baryshnikov  -- viewers unfamiliar with the ballet might well wonder why it's called "Giselle," rather than "All About Albrecht." (The Baryshnikov-worship peaks under the closing credits, where his solos are repeated in slo-mo.)

Priorities, of course, have changed - in both The Turning Point and Dancers, Ross and Kaye are determined to depict ballet companies as hotbeds of heterosexuality, and Baryshnikov's image played into that.

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On 1/22/2015 at 6:14 PM, California said:

But both Dancers and (to a lesser extent) Nijinsky give us footage of performances we otherwise don't have. Dancers has considerable footage of Baryshnikov and Ferri in Act II of Giselle and Nijinsky has some of the reconstructed Sacre and Faun. Given the paucity of recordings of legendary dancers, this alone makes them worthwhile.

I completely agree. Both films had corny and trashy plots, but still worth seeing for the dancing.

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27 minutes ago, Marta said:

I completely agree. Both films had corny and trashy plots, but still worth seeing for the dancing.

I'd suggest there's a considerable difference. Nijinsky was at least an honorable try  at telling a true story and it depicted a gay love affair with a frankness and sympathy very unusual for its time. (And it was, if anything, decorous to a fault; a little trashiness might have livened proceedings up a bit.)  Dancers' brand of heterosexuality would have been retrograde even at the time. Any ballet fan will want to see it for the reasons mentioned, but that doesn't take away from how weak it is.  (IMO Dancers owes its long-suffering audience a better Giselle than it gets.)

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