Tag: ballet


Center Stage

December 1st, 2016 — 8:04pm

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Center Stage-nf

In addition to now being a TV network, NetFlix still offers subscribers the ability to reach into the past and request a DVD of a movie or an online play which we may have missed when it came out, or is about a subject that has great appeal to us. SB has always been a lover of ballet and all dance, so she pulled the trigger on this one. We both were not disappointed with this 16-year old film about the audition process to be chosen as a dancer to a topnotch ballet company. The setting is New York City, and any New Yorker will immediately recognize the streets surrounding Lincoln Center, where the American Ballet Theatre has its home.

Ballet stars start at a young age and most of the young faces in this film may not be out of their late teens. The storyline shows each aspiring dancer, male and female, having their own personality and their individual story. Some of the conflicts may be predictable and familiar, but they held our interest and drew us closer to the characters. However, the star of this film was the great dancing of this ensemble and the outstanding choreography.

While we didn’t recognize any of the cast, we suspect that many have gone on to great careers in professional dancing around the country. One outstanding male dancer, who is well-known at the time the movie was made, was Ethan Stiefel. Also, Zoe Saldana who played a rebellious young dancer, became a well-known actress who starred in two subsequent Star Wars movies as well as other big hits. Nicolas Hytner, the veteran British director, captured the great dancing throughout the film but also kept the pace of the storyline moving along quite well. There were no big surprises in the plot, but if you signed up for a dance movie, you will not be disappointed, especially with the finale. (2000

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Musical

Afternoon of a Faun

April 12th, 2014 — 10:44pm

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Afternoon of the Faun : Tanaquil Le Clercq rm- If you love ballet and are familiar with the great artists and choreographers  as well as the history of ballet you probably will very much enjoy this documentary film It is about a young girl who at age 14 was a talented student studying at a school run by the great Balanchine . Four years later she not only was dancing with him but soon after was married to him, although he was nearly 25 years her senior. Tanquil Le Clercq, known as “Tanny” had a long , lovely and distinctive physique. Her dancing not only inspired Balanchine but she was also said to be a muse for Jerome Robbins who created his famous Afternoon of a Faun for Tanny. She was one of the most famous dancers of her time until at the age of 27 she was struck down by polio, which was the plague of its time. This was a disease that unexpectedly would make its appearance and would especially  paralyze children and young adults. It could even be fatal. Salk’s amazing vaccine came on the scene a short time later. Tanny was forced to be in an “iron lung” which would help her breathe and then over several years graduated to a wheel chair from which she became a teacher of ballet. The film consists mostly of beautiful film clips of Tanny dancing with Balanchine and others. There are clips of people talking about this unusual woman and her life. Not only is there Balanchine and  Jerome Robbins, who was very close to her, but others such as Jacque D’Ambroise, Arthur Mitchell and a women who for many years was Balanchine’s secretary and assistant. Her insights, particularly into the thinking of her boss, captured some of the conflict that he must have had for loving and caring about Tanny, but pursuing his own career as he worked with other ballerinas, eventually leaving Tanny to marry another dancer. It is unfortunate that we never hear a meaningful interview with the main star of this film We come to care about her through the old movies of her performing her magnificent dancing and the glimpses of her beauty even in the later years. We also learn about her strength, intelligence and humor from excerpts of letters she wrote, which were read by an unseen actress in the film..  This all takes place  with the rich and melodic music of the ballet, which accompanies not only the dancing but also this moving story. If you don’t have a special relationship to ballet and dance this documentary film will probably not move you very much. But if you do, be prepared to be swept off your feet and be caught up in the true tale  of this beautiful and tragic person.(2014)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Documentary

Mao’s Last Dancer

July 15th, 2011 — 8:34pm

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Mao’s Last Dancer- nf – You get a lot for the price of your ticket in this movie. First there is an insight into the recent history of China where even after the death of Mao, the Chinese government tried to control the minds their people as well as their freedom and spirit. You also get some wonderful pieces of classical ballet choreographed by Australians Graeme Murphy and Janet Vernon. But most of all you get the true, very touching story of Li Cunxin based on his autobiography and an excellent screenplay by Jan Sardi. At age 11 he was plucked from his rural cold, snowy school to leave his peasant parents and 5 siblings in order  to live and study full time at a dance academy in Beijing. We follow him through three  actors who play him at various stages in his youth and finally to his portrayal as a young man by Chi Cao who himself is an accomplished dancer. Interestingly, Cao’s real life parents had been teachers of Li Cunxin.  Director Bruce Beresford switching back in forth to various time periods shows the development of this talented evolving dancer. After leaving his family to train  in Beijing, the next big event is as an 18 year old  when he is  invited on a cultural exchange to the Houston Ballet Academy by it’s director Ben Stevenson (Bruce Greenwood). There is culture shock as he had been brainwashed to believe that the US was quite the opposite of what he saw and experienced in 1980’s Houston Texas. There is romance, his recognition of his talent and his potential. Then there is  a confrontation with the long arm of China that is pulling him back there. Much of the film is actually shot in China as well as in Houston Texas. The scenes and the people in the rural village appear quite authentic. The story easily evokes tears and yet reminds us of an important lesson that is the theme of the movie and a line in it.,  Before You Can Fly You Have To Be Free .  (2010)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Biography, Drama, Musical

Black Swan

January 31st, 2011 — 5:34am

*****

Black Swan rm–  This movie is about ballet and there a good amount of ballet in it. It is also about competition, jealousy and the desire to be perfect. There is no better place for these feelings to be played out than when the decision is made for the lead role in the beautiful and powerful Swan Lake Ballet. In the background is the sweeping majestic music of Tchaikovsky which is brilliantly used  by the film’s music  composer Clint Mansell to capture the u underlying theme of the movie. The theme is one of losing touch with reality to the point of psychosis. This allows director Darren Aronofsky to skillfully turn this movie into a horror fantasy where you are never quite sure when Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) has fallen into the abyss of insanity. Once you are into the crevices of the unconscious, repressed sexual wishes are fair game to examine. Portman rises to the occasion in showing all aspects of the  inner self of her character as well as projecting magnificent graceful dancing skills. She well deserves the multiple nominations for best actress of the year which she is garnering. She is supported by an excellent cast which includes Barbara Hershey who plays her mother. The story by Andres Heinz and screenplay by Heinz, Mark Heyman and John McLaughlin along with the outstanding direction of Aronofsky with his technical staff provide a film you won’t be able to get out of your mind. Interestingly, the film ends  as did one of our favorite ballet movies, Red Shoes.(2010).

Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama

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