Every year, hundreds of thousands of girls dream of becoming ballerinas. Ballerina follows five young women who’ve achieved their dreams to varying degrees.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of girls dream of becoming ballerinas. Ballerina follows five young women who’ve achieved their dreams to varying degrees. From the newly hired ballerina at the Kirov, to the veteran dancer returning after a serious injury, this documentary illustrates the various career stages of these hardworking dancers without being preachy about the intense physical demands and short careers associated with ballet.
Diana Baker, who has narrated numerous documentaries, lends her vocal talents to this film, but only adds to its flat quality. At first, the documentary is a little lackluster and hard to get into. However, after about 10 minutes we start to see the reality of these women’s lives and career choices and the film becomes a little more interesting.
The Kirov Ballet hired all of the dancers in their teens, one as young as 13, and all have been molded by the Russian ballet style. One of the lead male dancers with the Opera de Paris says that you can always tell a Russian ballerina apart from any others. They have a grace of movement that doesn’t exist in a non-Russian ballerina. After watching these five women move through their careers, it’s easy to see what he’s talking about.
The ballet schools in Russia start by admitting only girls who they think will not grow too far outside their idea of the perfect ballerina. So, acceptance into the schools is a matter of chance. Not only must the girls be talented, but they must have a small head, long neck, long arms and legs and a lean, long torso. Not surprisingly, most girls don’t make the cut.
The most interesting thing about the film is the discussion on the current downward trend in male dancers. Gone are the days of Nuryev and Baryshnikov. Ballet is once again a female-dominated style. I also found it interesting that once a girl reaches the point of being a soloist and then prima ballerina, she is allowed to change the choreography of her pieces if she doesn’t think the current steps suit her. I had always thought the steps were set in stone and therefore unchangeable, especially on the whim of a dancer.
This seems small compensation for what the dancers give up. Many dancers become so obsessed with their careers that they have little in the way of private lives, often waiting for injury or retirement to get married. Each of the dancers complains of the difficulty on their physical and emotional selves and talks about wanting to leave the ballet, only to throw themselves into their work even harder, winning competitions, signing new contracts with foreign ballet companies and rehearsing new ballets. It’s hard to believe that any of them would quit willingly.
Although the film shows the harsh reality of the ballet world, it also shows that with a lot of hard work and patience, a ballerina can have great success. However, Ballerina as a whole lacks the artistry of the ballet it portrays. With such a beautiful art as the ballet, it’s a little disappointing that the documentary doesn’t reflect its subject more completely.