Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Watching How Ballet Sausage is Made

I can't remember if I mentioned this, but I'm in rehearsal for an Other Movement show at the moment.  It's the biggest show I've ever done in terms of venue and promotion....We were really productive last week, but now we've lost two days due to scheduling, and we're definitely behind.  I've been trying to soothe my anxiety by re-watching series / films focusing on how ballet productions are made!  Here is a list of some of the things I am watching as I try not to FREAK OUT.

1)  Agony and Ecstasy: A Year With English National Ballet (available on Youtube).  This is one of my favorite ballet documentary series ever.  It has three parts, each following a different production.  The first, and my favorite, follows Swan Lake.  It highlights the beginning of the partnership between Daria Klimentova, the oldest principal dancer in the company at that time, and Vadim Muntagirov, a new dancer with the company.  Daria is only supposed to be his practice partner until Polina Semionova arrives for opening night, but because of visa issues, she has to dance instead!  Derek Deane, the choreographer / stager, completely rakes her over the coals...and you will just have to watch to see how it turns out.  The second part shows Romeo and Juliet and various tensions between the dancers and management while budget issues loom.  The third part is about the Nutcracker staged by Wayne Eagling, who is the spacey artistic sort who loves to rework things really late (oh that poor shoe master who painted all of those boots only to find out they were switching to ballet slippers instead).  Seeing their production problems is actually making me feel better about ours!

2)  Ballet 422.  This recently went up on Netflix and I've watched it like four times already.  This documents Justin Peck's creation of a new ballet for NYCB.  It's very cinema vérité, without talking head interviews, and shows the sort of banal minutia that has to go on for a production to happen.  I especially love seeing how the dancers collaborate to make the choreography work for them.  This film is a very intimate and subtle portrait of Peck and his process, and its calming to see people do their work diligently, efficiently and without much drama.

3) Strictly Bolshoi (YouTube).  A record of Christopher Wheeldon making a new ballet for the Bolshoi.  One of the more interesting features of this film is that it shows the culture clashes that can occur in new collaborations.  It too reveals how many last minute changes there can be in making a show; Wheeldon changes his entire concept several weeks into rehearsal (poor prop department that made all those thrones that weren't used)!  There is also a very amusing principal dancer who is a total male diva.  And it's nice that they show the complete ballet at the end (I think it's all of it, or a very lengthy excerpt).

Have you seen these?  Do you have any more for me?

The creation process of our show is actually being documented by a filmmaker, so it'll be interesting (or horrible?) to see how we come across!

Earlier: Ballet Movies: Ranked & Reviewed

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