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I've been on a ballet documentaries kick, thank you Netflix instant and YouTube! Watched Les enfants de la danse, untranslated from the French but I followed along okay...it was mainly a general review of the Ecole de Danse of the Paris Opera ballet. Notable for this clip (the dance in the first 30 seconds) which I love for its playfulness. It seems so infrequent that ballet movements evoke the tone of the music, which is baffling to me. If the strings are spinning around, shouldn't the dancer spin? Little short notes = hopping and such? I don't know why all dance isn't like this, but this clip is pretty fun. Anyway, little French bebes dancing and looking amazing, but not much life detail, you know?

Also watched: Only When I Dance about two ballet dancers from the Rio favelas; "Etoiles: Dancers of the Paris Opera ballet" (Netflix instant, not terribly good); "The Dancer," a fun and occasionally weird documentary about a dancer of the Royal Swedish ballet that includes funhouse juxtapositions between dance sequences and dudes making ballet shoes. The Dancer is also on Netflix Instant, I recommend it.

And then, and then! I found the documentary I didn't know I was looking for: Ballerina, which follows several dancers at the Kirov, Russia's premier ballet academy and theatre in St Petersburg. (Netflix Instant! Check it out!)

This movie answered the question, how is it Russian dancers are so crazy good? Oh right, it's because they isolate them starting at age 10 and they basically train night and day for a decade. Footage from the entrance exams to the Vaganova Academy were frighteningly soviet:




This guy would manipulate their limbs all around so the judging committee can score each candidate on flexibility, body shape, etc. Just like in your nightmares!

I mean yes, it is weird and kind of freaky, and some of the other untranslated clips I saw online from the Perm ballet school include teachers yelling at the students etc...I mean this is how Russia does it. They do not coddle. This is the same model and method they use to train most sports, the model they exported to China, too. And yet this is how they produce the most amazing dancers. They say you can tell Kirov dancers and Russian dancers in general, because their arms and torso are more vibrant, alive.

Some gorgeous shots of Evgenia Obraztsova:







Also her outfit here is so lovely. Oxford shirt, sweater, black and white skirt with black bow. She came out to meet her fans. I loved that one old lady brought her this kind of juice box thing, and she opened it and drank it down within seconds while they were praising her performance (this was after her first solo performance, I think?) and asking for autographs. Made me wonder what the heck that drink was.

Another favorite dancer: Diana Vishneva, who had the best craziest workout gear:



Leopard print! Yellow pink and olive falling-down handknits! Later when she danced she would make a joke of kicking off her legwarmer (link). She was described as "nontraditional" which meant...I'm not sure. Somehow her lines weren't as good but she was more expressive? She had the highest scores as a Vaganova student and made Prima Ballerina very young. She was the most fun to watch.

Ulyana Lopatkina was profiled during her return after a two year absence following an injury, during which she also had a child, which was portrayed (by her in interviews) as a pretty radical decision. And they discussed how she'd have to work hard to get back "to her level." The schedule they follow is pretty crazy -- rehearsals during the day and then performances almost every single night. They interviewed a French ballet director at one point who said the Russian dancers mature very young because they are pushed to perform so much earlier -- if you have to learn Swan Lake in a week, then you do it, no questions. And then again the next night. Or onto a different ballet, over and over each night.

Ulyana Lopatkina:



She also has the best swan arms ever, it just looks unreal, like disembodied creatures barely connected to her body.








So that was fun. I really want to see something that follows dancers who dropped out, who didn't make it. Or the ones who've been in the corps de ballet or coryphee status for years and never advance and then in come these amazing young dancers who are made soloists and then prima ballerina within a couple years? What is that like to watch from the sidelines? Are bribes involved? Pretty much everything I've found follows the stars or the aspiring stars. One of the Paris Opera teachers spoke of how when she retired she didn't dance or move for a month straight, and lost two cm in height because her muscles tightened up or something. That was interesting, I wish there was more info like that.
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