ETOILES: DANCERS OF THE PARIS OPERA BALLET celebrates the legacy of one of the best ballet companies in the world by weaving together rehearsals, tour snapshots and performances of ...
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ETOILES: DANCERS OF THE PARIS OPERA BALLET celebrates the legacy of one of the best ballet companies in the world by weaving together rehearsals, tour snapshots and performances of classical ballets such as Swan Lake and La Sylphide, as well as contemporary works such as Maurice Bejart's Ninth Symphony, Jiri Kylian's Doux Mensonge (Sweet Lies) and Pierre Darde's Orison.
Passion and total commitment required in being a dancer of the Paris Opera Ballet
There were quite a number of documentaries I saw in 2003, "Etoiles: Dancers of the Paris Opera Ballet" (aka "Tout près des étoiles") is one of the unforgettable ones. A documentary dedicated to the dancers of the Paris Opera Ballet is a labor of love from filmmaker Nils Tavernier, who followed the company for 3 months in 1999, including their Tokyo performances. We were given an insider's look of what goes on behind the curtains, at rehearsals, studio practices, students at the Nanterre school, and many insightful interviews. It was fascinating listening to the responses and comments just from the casual, on the spot interviews, be it one on one or in groups. The subtitles by Lenny Borger and Cynthia Schoch facilitated remarkable understanding of the world of these ballet dancers.
A woman dancer: "The word love is not strong enough for dancing. Dance is more than love. It is something that devours you." A young male dancer: "The stage is a drug. Every time (even though I'm not happy with how I danced, and have fear before going on stage) I wanted to go back on." A dance teacher: "The weeks and months all the effort of many rehearsals for a few minutes on stage. It's insane. You can't put a prize on it."
"What rank are you?" Nils asked. "Quadrille. The lowest rank. But I dance a lot," a young ballerina happily replied while doing her makeup. To another dancer: "Which ballet are you in?" "I'm an understudy. I'm not dancing. I'm used to that," the lanky dancer walked away with a smile. "Yes, there's pain," a dancer nursing her foot said, "you forget a lot of things on stage. It [the pain] goes away."
These are just a handful of sample exchanges/scenes as we get to watch close to the stars (étoiles), be it premier danseur or danseuse, young quadrilles or 12 and 14 year old dance students, dance teachers who gave up their ballet shoes, or mother (father) dancers who wanted a child and family instead of a star career, and a prima ballerina's last performance as she retires at 40 ("men retire at 45"). It's 1 hr. 36 mins. well spent, especially for those who appreciate the ballet. What a compact yet comprehensive look into the everyday (stage) life of dancers at the Paris Opera Ballet company. There are excerpts from about seven ballet performances. The ballet music and selective film score match the thoughtfully edited together documentary, which is engrossing drama as good as any mainstream movie. "Etoiles: Dancers of the Paris Opera Ballet" is available on DVD.
Other memorable documentaries: Mark Moskowitz's "Stone Reader" (intriguing journal in locating an author of a book), Jeffrey Blitz's "Spellbound" (following eight 1999 National Spelling Bee teenage contestants), and Dana Brown's "Step Into Liquid" (surfing is another dedicated lifelong sport/adventure).
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