Ballets Russes is an intimate portrait of a group of pioneering artists -- now in their 70s, 80s and 90s -- who gave birth to modern ballet.

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Cast

Credited cast:
...
Herself
Kenneth Kynt Bryan ...
Dance Student
Yvonne Chouteau ...
Herself
...
Herself
Frederic Franklin ...
Himself
Alan Howard ...
Himself
Nathalie Krassovska ...
Herself
...
Herself (as Dame Alicia Markova)
Milada Mladova ...
Herself (clip "Escape Me Never") (archive footage)
Nina Novak ...
Herself
...
Himself
Wakefield Poole ...
Himself
Tatiana Riabouchinska ...
Herself
...
Narrator (voice)
Mia Slavenska ...
Herself
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Storyline

For many, modern ballet began with the Ballet Russe of Monte Carlo, originally made up of Russian exiles from the Russian Revolution. This film tells the story of this landmark company with its stars and production as well as its power games, rivalries and tribulations that marked its turbulent history. Written by Kenneth Chisholm (kchishol@rogers.com)

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Fame, glamour, ego, politics, money, war, love . . . and dance.


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Release Date:

19 April 2006 (Belgium)  »

Also Known As:

Ballets Russes  »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$40,199 (USA) (11 November 2005)

Gross:

$815,848 (USA) (23 June 2006)
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Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Special Treat
18 December 2005 | by (Sacramento, California) – See all my reviews

Quite to everyone's surprise, Dan Geller and Dayna Goldfine, the filmmakers who made the documentary film, showed up and hosted a Question-and-Answer session following the movie showing I attended in San Francisco.

I was curious what had initiated this project. Goldfine described an event put together by ballet fans in New Orleans in the late 90's (whose own ballet company had just expired), to bring together the veterans of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, some of whom hadn't seen each other in nearly forty years. A colleague named Mark Hawk alerted Geller and Goldfine that this was going to be a unique event, and that someone with their film-making talents HAD to be there to film it. Starting there, with all the revived personal contacts and refreshed memories, the project began moving forward, but there was still the time element to consider, since many of the dancers were already in their eighties and nineties.

Goldfine described a worry she had at the start of the project regarding whether the dance veterans would be able to carry the burden of the documentary. Sure, in their heyday, the dancers had been major stars, but today, they were in advanced age. Would the dancers prove to be too - uninteresting? Fortunately, this worry proved to be completely unfounded. They might be octogenarians, sure, but the dancers of the Ballet Russe were some of the most dramatic, self-possessed, fierce performers the world had ever seen, and that fire still burned.

Reading some initial reviews of the film, I had formed the erroneous impression that the narrative thrust of the film would be something like: 'plucky group of Russian expatriates in Paris get ambitious, and conquer the world'. That approach couldn't work, though, because there were so many different dancers, who joined in different places and at different times, sometimes under radically-different circumstances. Also, most of the dancers didn't join as principals or directors: instead, they were chosen at a young age. The dancers were swept up in a grand adventure: like joining the circus that arrived in town.

Editing the film proved a major headache. They had twenty, or so, major characters who could not be ignored: the voluble Frederic Franklin, the amiable Mark Platt, the strong-willed Mia Slavenska, the unapproachable Dame Alicia Markova, the alert Nini Theilade, etc., etc. It was almost impossible to weave a workable storyline for use in a film with such a large number of interesting personalities, particularly when there was also a complicated story; a story that starts with the de Basil/Blum partnership in 1931, the big split, the best of Massine's work, the war years in North and South Americas, the return of Balanchine, the temptations of Hollywood, and the agony and penury of the late 1950's and early 60's.

The approach Goldfine and Geller settled on was to place the burden of the complicated narrative onto a female narrator, who told the story almost as a fairytale. The dancers then told their individual stories within that framework. In that way, when a complicated event had to be explained, the narrator could do it, with maps and other visual aids, just as efficiently as possible.

I took my very first dance classes with Ballet Russe dancer George Zoritch in 1982. Even as a neophyte, under his good-humored tutelage, you came immediately to love dance, and to respect dance tradition. I knew that Zoritch must have some very interesting stories, as also must his fellow dancers. We must all be deeply grateful that Goldfine and Geller, and their colleagues, also saw the possibilities here.

I was very, very pleased with the film! See it, and by all means, support the theaters who take a risk on it! Goldfine and Geller said that the DVD of the documentary will be coming out around September/October 2006, and will feature much unused footage.


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