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Ballerina - Movie Review - 2009

Behind The Scenes at the Kirov Ballet

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Ballerina - Movie Review - 2009

Ballerina Alina Somova

First Run Feaures
French filmmaker Bertrand Norman follows the careers of five Russian ballerinas in this documentary that was originally produced for French TV, and is being presented several years later in limited theatrical release in the United States, prior to release on DVD. Using some magnificent footage of performances, as well as behind the scenes shots and candid interviews, Bertrand gives audiences a glimpse of the extreme discipline and dedication demanded of ballerinas who dance at the famed Kirov Ballet.

Five Fabulous Ballerinas

We meet the youngest of Normand's subjects, Alina Somova, when she is 17 and the most promising student in her class at St. Petersburg's famous Vaganova Academy, the feeder school for the magnificent Kirov Ballet, now known as the Mariinski Theatre. We follow Alina as she strives to distinguish herself from others in the Kirov's painstakingly precise corps de ballet and become a prima ballerina.

At the other end of the spectrum in terms of age and experience, we see Ulyana Lopatkina, who at 32, is facing the arduous and daunting task of trying to reestablish her standing as a Kirov prima ballerina after a performance hiatus of two years during which she's recovered from surgery on her injured ankle, gotten married and had a daughter.

The others are the lovely Evgenia Obratsova, who came to the Kirov from Vaganova Academy just one year before Alina Somova did, but who has quickly risen from the corps de ballet to stardom in Romeo and Juliet, a role for which she has won acclaim and a coterie of doting fans, as well as Kirov star Diana Vishneva, who, in her late 20s, has distinguished herself for her remarkable stage presence, acting skills, daring departures from classic technique and a wide range of guest appearances in ballet companies in other countries, and Svetlana Zakharova, the Ukrainian-born ballerina who was accepted into the Kirov when she was 17, made a soloist the following year and, at age 24, moves from the Kirov in St. Petersburg to the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow.

Dancers and The Dance

The film, which is more a profile of dancers than of the dance, shows that Russia is still the world's core of ballet, where dancers who have the talent and can sustain the required discipline lead privileged lives. Russians are rightly proud of their ballerinas, and we certainly appreciate them too--especially when we get to know them as intimately as we do in Bertrand Normand's rare behind-the-scenes film.

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Film Details:

  • Release Date: January, 2009, USA
  • Running Time: 80 mins.
  • Parental Advisory: Content advisory for parents
  • Country: France, Russia
  • Language: Russian, French, with English subtitles
  • Company: First Run Features

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