A close-up but still, one senses, heavily idealized documentary portrait, Ballerina presents the near-masochistic dedication of a half-dozen female dancers in Russia as they navigate their way through academy training and, if they’re lucky, positions within one of the nation’s famed ballet troupes en route to the ultimate goal: the designation of prima ballerina. It’s a field that practically requires people to sign their name in blood to prove their commitment at an almost unthinkably early age, and one of the most arresting images of the entire ankle-rubbing, makeup-applying, routine-drilling spectacle is that of a hopeful class of first-year girl students being stripped down to a pair of flimsy briefs while grim-faced instructors check their “lines.” Still, director Bertrand Normand makes a clear decision not to dwell on the pitfalls and perils of the profession—of all the girls he follows on their separate paths toward the same place, none has their dreams outright dashed. Sure, one of them sounds a little brainwashed when she tries to enthuse about being hired to dance with the renowned Kirov troupe immediately after graduation, as though she expected to be named a prima ballerina at age 16. Another, repeatedly referred to as the most talented, most promising ballerina of her generation, has to battle her way back from an injury, but it’s hardly the snapped Achilles tendon from Robert Altman’s The Company, a movie that probably features a less precise depiction of classic balletic grace but also puts a more cogent face on the costs and consequences of the career path. When all is said and done, you don’t ever get to see what happens to the dozens, the hundreds of students who have to face up to the fact that they’ll never measure up in the field they choose to spend the prime of their life training for. The tale told by Ballerina has as little room for failure as the instructors and theater directors it depicts.
- First Run Features
- 77 min
- Bertrand Normand
- Bertrand Normand
- Uliana Lopatkina, Evguenya Obraztsova, Alina Somova, Diana Vishneva, Svetlana Zakharova
- Slant is reaching more readers than ever before, but advertising revenue across the Internet is falling fast, hitting independently owned and operated publications like ours the hardest. We’ve watched many of our fellow media sites fall by the way side in recent years, but we’re determined to stick around.
We’ve never asked our readers for financial support before, and we’re committed to keeping our content free and accessible—meaning no paywalls or subscription fees. If you like what we do, however, please consider becoming a Slant patron.
You can also make a one-time donation via PayPal: