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On Pointe: Larissa Bills documentary about the School of American Ballet


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On 12/18/2020 at 6:21 PM, canbelto said:

I actually shed tears at the second episode -- the Nutcracker casting. Such dedication on the part of kids so young, and their parents too.

The various parents attending a "pointe shoe" information class was interesting. This was good to hear as well:

"We will assist you with your steps towards becoming a professional dancer.
This will include filming variations for video submission, how to file your taxes, apartment hunting. There's even an etiquette dinner..."
--Allen Peiffer

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Having seen all the available episodes, it seems pretty clear that the original intent was to have about 8 episodes (at least), but the pandemic quarantines put a stop to production. So the ending is a bit abrupt, but in general the documentary holds together pretty well. It's not quite "Hoop Dreams", but I was never bored (although I've probably seen enough Nutcracker for the time being). The school comes across well - almost an ideal environment to grow up in, which I have to think is a bit of a distortion from reality(!), but the documentary certainly makes a great marketing and p.r. piece for SAB. Not that I was looking for an exposé - it's good to see the positive aspects of the ballet/stage world played up for a change.

Edited by pherank
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Canbelto, I agree. The second episode had me crying, too.  Not sure why -- the beautiful way Dena Abergel handled the casting, being a former Nutcracker parent myself (not at SAB but at a school in California run by one of Balanchine's early ballerinas -- Yvonne Mounsey), the camaraderie among the students... all of it.  I have now watched it through twice. 

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37 minutes ago, Jacqueline said:

Canbelto, I agree. The second episode had me crying, too.  Not sure why -- the beautiful way Dena Abergel handled the casting, being a former Nutcracker parent myself (not at SAB but at a school in California run by one of Balanchine's early ballerinas -- Yvonne Mounsey), the camaraderie among the students... all of it.  I have now watched it through twice. 

I agree. It had me crying too. I loved the entire series. There is no hiding the fact that it is heartbreaking for the kids who aren't cast, but the adults around them handle couldn't handle it better. I also found it poignant that some of the kids knew it was their last Nutcracker year, because they'd be too tall next year. This is particularly sad in this pandemic year in which so many kids lost there chance.

All in all I found the series a refreshing antidote to the ridiculous portals of ballet that are out there. Reality is dramatic enough IMO.

 

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I also thought that even though it was made for a Disney friendly audience it wasn't a whitewash of ballet. People in the documentary spoke frankly of the competition, the anxiety when it came to casting, the injuries, the financial strain put on families. 

I also loved the respect between the NYCB dancers and the children in the Nutcracker. I loved Lauren Lovette telling the angels that she once faceplanted her variation and the angels were just left watching. 

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I enjoyed watching the various segments of the classes and auditions also the expressions on the young angels faces when they were in the rehearsal the ballerinas. It is wonderful to see a school that truly cares about each student- developing them to be their best so that they all will find a good job. I was impressed with Dena Abergel and Arch Higgins -their commitment and skill in teaching the young ones . I found it interesting that the school would offer to help you find an apartment, also with taxes etc. I my day you were completely on your own. I found tears rolling down my face when the first dancer found out that she was made an apprentice- having lived through it myself. I loved Kay Mazzo telling two newly promoted apprentices " Now you can call your parents"

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