The Dying Swan

This video has been making the rounds on non-dance blogs that I visit:

Apparently it is possible to dance en pointe in sneakers. Who knew?! L’il Buck’s turns are good too, and all the more astonishing for the shoes he’s wearing! My knowledge of hip hop is minimal, but something like this crosses all borders.

I rather think that Fokine would like this.

Sit down, Natalie Portman.

Sarah Lane, Portman’s body double.

I wrote before that I was utterly unimpressed by Black Swan. The predictable plotting, melodramatic acting, and subpar dancing got to me. Now that has evolved into active dislike, thanks to the lack of acknowledgment of the REAL ballerina whose contribution was muffled in an attempt to exalt Portman’s “grueling” ballet training.

Benjamin Millepied, Portman’s babydaddy, stated in the LA Times (see dlisted article for full quote)  that Lane “just did the footwork and the fouettes and one diagonal in the studio. Honestly, 85% of that movie is Natalie.” Terrible quote. Footwork, fouettes, and diagonal=only 15% of ballet? What then composes the 85%, pray tell? Arm flapping and looking constipated? Millepied needs to brush up on his basics.

Anyone with a reasonable degree of ballet training could recognize Portman’s dancing for what it was: a non-dancer trying VERY HARD to look convincing as a professional. Which, for the sake of a Hollywood movie, is fine; but let’s not pretend that Portman is some kind of prodigy.

I understand that so much of this is probably the studio pushing its agenda and not the fault of Portman or Millepied per se, but let’s give credit where credit is due. Sarah Lane is the real thing, and Natalie Portman is not.

Can you imagine taking class here?

This is the Guangzhou Opera House. What a beautiful studio!

I’ve taken class in a wide range of studios. My first was really lovely, with floor-ceiling windows and wonderful sprung floors. Then there was the dismal community college studio with cement (ouch!) floors, and the tiny studio with no windows at a small neighborhood studio in a strip mall. I take class now in a studio that’s part of a theater (converted from a gorgeous, wood church). It’s very old-fashioned, creaky, and has a lot of historical character.

Overall, though, I prefer the shiny, sleek, modern studios (see above photo!). Being that adult classes are hard to find in any case, I’m just glad that I have the chance to take them at all. What’s your favorite studio?

Black Swan…meh.

High hopes. Not quite crushed, but…

1. Highly predictable. Maybe this was because I sat through the movie with an inveterate “ok here’s what happens next” movie partner, but I knew from the start that everything was just a big stress n’ sexual deprivation induced hallucination. I would’ve liked the movie better if there had been more ambiguity here: maybe the other characters start seeing things, aside from Nina?

2. Maybe it’s just the Red Shoes speaking, but the ballet-dancer-gone-bananas trope seems to be, well, a trope. A very tired, grumpy trope that just wants to lean against the barre and smoke its cigarette and twirl its hair.

3. Not enough ballet. Obviously.

Still, I hope the success of this movie will mean more dance movies to come, and hopefully ones with greater depth and thematic flexibility. I love a good campy dance movie, but it seems to me that the possibilities are so much…greater! than camp dance movie or crazy ballerina movie.

Jenifer Ringer: fat ballerina?


Is Jenifer Ringer overweight for a dancer?

I say no. Her port de bras is lovely and I’m not aware of her being much more different than the average corps girl. I had read with interest in some biography of her that while she was with ABT, she had something of a breaking point, left, gained 40 pounds, decided to come back, lost 40 pounds, and rejoined the company. An uncommon journey, I think, but one that someone with less talent would not have been able to accomplish–that is, I feel that once you leave a company, it can be hard to get back in, whatever happened in the meantime.

In any case I feel that the NY Times critic was not making a useful criticism of her as a dancer. It’s one thing to say that a dancer isn’t light on her feet, but it’s quite another to say that she’s overweight. That kind of critique is taken very seriously–too seriously–by professional dancers.  I think this happened some time ago with a Russian dancer–her company had taken her partner away because they thought she was too big? In all honesty weight is important in partnering, but from what I’ve read men prefer partners who are well muscled because they can hold themselves better than a weak girl who has a low weight but not enough muscle tone.

More about this here, plus a video interview with Ringer:

La Roux: Bulletproof

Strangely mesmerizing. Also, is it wrong for thinking that Elly Jackson is…attractive? Her androgyny is oddly beautiful/handsome. What’s interesting is that with a certain kind of styling, she could be really stunning in a feminine way, but this genderbending look is far more distinctive.

I can’t stop watching this.

Also, it is extremely danceable.

There and back again: starting ballet, over and over

I took a several-month hiatus from ballet on account of starting a new job, trying out some different dance classes, and generally being a little tired of ballet. It was much needed. And now I have returned–not as triumphant a return as I might have wished for, perhaps, but not nearly as bad as I feared, either.

Due to schedule restrictions I can only take ballet in the evenings, and I took a beginner-intermediate class to start off. I was essentially ignored by the teacher for most of the class that first night, with no corrections given. But I was so happy. I was actually smiling in center, which is something I rarely do and have been long harangued by my teachers for ignoring. It felt really good.

What was nice was that the teacher assumed I had danced when I was younger, asking me at the end of class where I had trained. Truthfully my training has been very piecemeal, mostly Vaganova with a little RAD thrown in, but I mumbled the name of my school in LA–which was fairly well known for sending off dancers to the NYCB–and ran off as quickly as I could. I had trained there, after all, but never in my life was I one of their pre-professional teens. Still, it was nice to be mistaken for one…sort of!

One of the things about doing ballet–or any kind of serious dance–as an adult is that inevitably there will be periods of time when you have to leave it, for reasons of job, family, whatever. I’ve found that each time I’ve returned, I gain a new appreciation for what I loved in the first place, despite the unavoidable discomfort of trying to get brain and body coordinated once again. And knowing that absence eats away at muscle memory, it’s still surprising how much one remembers.

Also, I think I’m going to start pointe. This has been years in the making. Will report on pointe shoe fittings and first steps in the next few weeks. 🙂