Instant Queue Diaries- Episode One: Ballerina
A Saturday night and I’m browsing through the Netflix instant queue list like a teenager cruising down a main street with no destination in mind. I’m hoping find a film or show that is entertaining but does not induce heavy thinking, and something that is somewhat out of the ordinary for me. I have always had a fascination with dancers, so I decide to check out the new documentary by Betrand Normand, “Ballerina,” which follows five Russian ballerinas as they rehearse, perform and rehearse some more in the Mariinsky Theater in Russia. Did I mention that they rehearse?
I see the dancers stretching and practicing, using their feet and legs to the very limits that the human limbs can be tested. At first, I feel guilty about watching on the couch with my bag of chips and soda, but these Russian ballet dancers train their bodies to such an extent that it’s almost as if they are made of something else (OK, I still feel a bit guilty about the chips). There opens a shot of a beautiful winter scene, white snow falling in the heart of the Russian winter, which is perfectly aligned with my vision of Russia (hey sometimes clichés have some truth to them). The shot takes me back to the 1985 film, “White Nights,” starring Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gregory Hines that I cherished so much as a kid for the fabulous scenes featuring Hines tap dancing around the unnaturally limber Baryshnikov in the middle of cold war Russia.
Swan Lake is being danced by one of the up and coming Russian ballerinas from the renowned Kirov ballet and I’m struck by the question I’ve wondered in the past, being a fan of the arts: “are ballet dancers and the audiences for the ballet dying things?” I continue watching to see if the question will be answered as the Kirov Ballet, with their amazing troupe and prima ballerinas, travel the world performing and being received with much praise and excitement. My idea of ballerinas, with all of their poise and perfection, is displayed through the five Russian dancers that are shown trying to reach the heights of their art form through insane sacrifice and dedication.
One of the prima ballerinas makes the statement in the film that the biggest threat to the art form today is that there aren’t new choreographers and that although they preserve the classics, every ballerina dreams of dancing something created just for her. Hearing the ballerina make this statement and seeing the fantasy of a life full of dancing incites princess feelings in me. What girl doesn’t dream about a show made just for her; being able to float like an ethereal butterfly on stage, having bouquets of flowers thrown at her feet and adoring fans cheering for her at least once in her life?
Knowing that most likely I won’t get to travel to Russia and see these amazing works performed in person, the chance to see “Romeo and Juliet” or “Swan Lake” in this film was a treat. I feel the art and artists are not a dying breed after watching the biggest up and coming ballerinas said to be the greatest potential in that form of dance currently.
Incidentally, the film “White Nights” is also available on instant queue if you want to check out who they mention in “Ballerina” as perhaps the best male ballet dancer of our generation – Mikhail Baryshnikov. Starting off browsing with no agenda, I ended up watching an interesting documentary and an old film I was nostalgic for; you never know where the queue will lead you.
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