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"Talent is considered worth measuring only when it occurs in the right body," the narrator announces as hundreds of children are paraded across the camera. Each child is aged 10-12 and is gleaned from an application pool of thousands, all hoping to be chosen by the illustrious Vaganova Choreographic Institute and Kirov Ballet.
The audition process as we see it is incredibly is rigorous, with children measured and chosen for the specific physical proportions deemed necessary for the ballet before even having a chance to show off their ability but, as this movie keenly illustrates, the audition is only the first step that they'll take in a lifetime of rigorous discipline if they are accepted.
The narrator is Princess Grace of Monaco, or Grace Kelly. Her calm, warm voice is a soothing addition to The Children of Theatre Street. Directed by Robert Dornhelm and Earle Mack, this academy award-nominated film was produced by a team made up of both Soviet and western filmmakers in 1977, right in the midst of communist power.
But the focus is not on the politics of the era. The focus here is on the children in the title. The documentary follows various students of the school throughout one year in their life, illustrating the life of a young ballerina in glorious detail. We see several students prepare for the performance that marks their graduation from the school, observe their activities and interactions, and find out just how much work ballerinas have to undertake in order to perfect their craft.
We also meet both the teachers and staff and hear a bit about the history of the Kirov Ballet while being treated to wonderful shots of St. Petersburg. The film can occasionally seem a little staged, perhaps because it was produced in the height of Soviet communist power, but the young ballerinas and the detail of their lives more than makes up for this.
The movie is about dedication and hard work. It is about the sweat and the tears that these students put into every day of their training and their lives. But it is also about the joy that lies in the dance for them. For the children of Theatre Street, ballet was everything. It was their life- and it was a life they were determined to live to the fullest.
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