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By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
Directed by Bertrand Normand
First Run Features 01/09 DVD/VHS Documentary
French filmmaker Bertrand Normand directs this beguiling documentary about the art and dedication of five young Russian ballerinas. It is a demanding profession but worth the effort given the adulation of these artists in their society. They rehearse and perform in the Mariinsky Theatre, a veritable labyrinth of rooms and passageways.
Normand focuses on the gifted Alina Somova who, after rigorous training since the age of ten, is accepted into the prestigious Kirov troupe which has been graced with luminaries such as Anna Pavlova, Vaslav Nijinsky, Rudolf Nureyev, Mikael Baryshnikov, and Natalia Makarova. She makes her debut as a soloist in Swan Lake at the age of 18.
An expert in classical ballet notes that women are now more interesting than men dancers. Normand makes this clear in his portrait of other dancers who are very different from Alina. Diana Vishneva is a gifted ballerina who has a yen for dancing abroad and taking on new roles. Evgenia Obraztsova has such presence that she even tries acting in a French film. Ulyana Lopatkina comes back after an operation on her ankle and impresses everyone with her increased maturity and skills.
The documentary consists of interviews with these women and their teachers, rehearsals, and scenes from famous ballets including Paquita, Diamonds, and Romeo and Juliet. Diane Baker serves as narrator for this documentary which provides a refreshing and illuminating portrait of a rising new generation of Russian ballerinas.
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by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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