Ballet 422 (2014) Poster


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If you like dance you'll love this other wise you'll be disappointed
dbborroughs26 January 2015
Warning: Spoilers
A look at the creation of a new dance (number 422) for the New York City Ballet by choreographer and dancer Jonathan Peck. We watch as Peck goes from commission through creation to performance.

How much you like the nuts and bolts of dance will determine how much you like the film. Personally I'm not a ballet fan so much of the creation segments bored me. I had no idea what they were talking about and watching some things over and over again wore on me.

At the same time seeing the completed piece was magical as was the kicker of seeing how Peck had to create the dance while at the same time maintaining his training as a dancer for the Ballet- his piece premieres as part of an evening of dance and he then had to race to get into costume to dance.

I know many dance fans who saw this, like I did at Tribeca, who loved it. I know just as many people like me who liked bits.

Worth a shot for the dance fans out there, all others its up to you.
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Delightful New York City Ballet documentary
paul-allaer10 May 2015
"Ballet 422" (2014 release; 75 min.) is a documentary about how New York City Ballet dancer Justin Peck, all of just 25 yrs. old, is commissioned to choreograph a new ballet piece, and he has only 2 months to do it, with the premiere scheduled for January 31, 2013 (it is the only new ballet piece of the Winter '13 season, and it is the ballet's 422th overall). The documentary opens with a couple of facts regarding the City Ballet itself (such as: it has its own full tie orchestra), and then we dive straight in, and we are treated to a no-holds barred behind the scenes look at how Peck goes about it.

Couple of comments: first and foremost, if you don't care for ballet, please save yourself the trouble and check out another movie instead. On the other hand, if you love ballet, chances are that you will marvel as we get a glimpse of how the City ballet actually works on a day-to-day basis. We get to know Justin Peck a little bit, as well as several of the featured dancers including Tiler Peck (no relation) and Sterling Hyltin. If you are expecting high drama (say as in "Black Swan"), you will be sorely disappointed. Instead, we get to appreciate the hard work that goes into a ballet piece, all the way to the smallest details (it is amazing to see how much attention the costume design is given). Couple of surprises for me from the documentary: at no point does Justin Peck share explain his vision or concept for he new ballet piece, or if he did, it didn't make it in the documentary. Also, while we are told that the music being used for the ballet hails from 1935, we don't find out what composer or which music piece until the movie's end credits, wow. But in the end those are minor quibbles, and I enjoyed "Ballet 422" quite a bit.

I saw "Ballet 422" at a recent one-time only special showing at my local art-house theater here in Cincinnati. It was announced beforehand that following the showing there would be a Q&A with Victoria Morgan, Creative Director and CEO of the Cincinnati Ballet. It was great that the theater was absolutely PACKED for this, and indeed there was a lively discussion after the showing, with Victoria sharing her further insights on all this. If you love ballet, I strongly encourage you to check out "Ballet 422", be it in the theater, on VOD, or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray (where hopefully there will be some bonus materials). "Ballet 422" is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
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What a hollow mess!
MovieIQTest8 September 2019
Ever seen a group of middle aged or even older Chinese mama sans doing the group dances in a town square or in a big empty space of a community park with loud music. Those women danced in uniform with lot of gestures of hands and body languages. What made those group Chinese dances so boring and disgusting to watch? Because those women just followed the music to do an uniformed dance without any essence or meaning to show anything else. It's just a group exercise, nothing more.

What we saw in Ballet 422 was exactly like what I've mentioned above. It's just a group exercise dance in uniform but without anything in it. Those dancers just followed the music tempo to move around but in all very poor form, the music itself was also a hollow meaningless mess. The angles of the dancers' hands, arms, legs, bodies were so messy, never in uniform. They were so busy to follow the music tempos to move, run, glide around but always in a messy forms. There's no story in it, no feeling in it, just like those Chinese old women's dances, the New York City Ballet just did a group exercise on stage with a live orchestra and controlled lighting.

The guy who designed this only paid attention to the techniques, the detailed movements of every dancer, and those dancers also danced like pre-programmed robots but never achieved the uniformity that was the most important requirement of a ballet program. The choice of the music was so bad without any meaning or story in it, just lot of notes changed either fast or slow, or faster or slower. I really don't know what's the purpose of asking so many professional dancers to do a totally meaningless ballet program. What I saw in this documentary was like watching a bunch of ballet students tried very hard to follow a meaningless music, practiced and practiced.

The young guy who choreographed this ballet program was a soul-less, feeling-less mechanic but definitely not an artist. After watching this documentary, it also showed that The New York City Ballet is a 3rd grade ballet company, it has so many mechanics, technicians and robotic dancers but with no soul or heart. It should be disbanded long time ago. If you don't know what I've described about the Chinese mama sans dancing, just go to and take a look, then you might understand why and how this Ballet 422 was just a hollow mess.
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Put on your point shoes
kz917-115 May 2017
A behind the scenes look at the concept, creation and choreography of a new ballet for the New York City Ballet. One the Corps members is tasked with the choreography and assisting the costume and lighting teams in creating a piece over several months. I enjoy documentaries and have seen several about the topic of ballet, if that is your wheelhouse you will enjoy it as well.
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MikeyB179322 September 2015
This was pretty disappointing. There is just not enough dance and too much filler (or cinema verite) as in:

  • Justin Peck (choreographer) walking down empty corridors

  • the orchestra being conducted

  • too much on costume assemblage (there is footage of a washing machine)

  • NYC subway stations

There is not much on the inspiration for the dance and the choreography; there is some perspiration (some short dancing scenes), but very little on the creative process. It's like seeing architects and engineers walking and talking, but never seeing the finished product(the building - in this case the dance).

For dancers only. Not for the audience. I pressed fast forward several times. Badly assembled and edited.
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A new contemporary ballet is prepared
Dunham165 June 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Many successful Hollywood movies follow the storyline of how a new ballet is prepared. Most have subplots based on the motives and after hours experiences of ballet company members. This film brilliantly ignores the sub plots to focus on the internal workings of the much admired New York City ballet at Lincoln Center's David Koch theater. Every camera angle and every bit of dialogue is fascinating to balletomanes though may be an unfamiliar experience to those who perhaps don't care for the performing arts or aren't enthused about ballet. We get intimate looks at the creative process, the way the corps de ballet prepares new choreography and the inner workings of a major ballet company with 91 dancers. The revelation seems the way the dancers and the house staff seem to direct in committee consensus without line boss artistic management as is traditional in a ballet company once run with an iron hand by George Balanchine and then by Peter Martins.The surprise expose is company ballet performance tweaked by many hands working to guess performer plus house staff consensus at the heart of why some fans adore NYCB and why some fans avoid its surface sameness week after week and year after year.
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Ballet 422 is not what it seems
sandover31 May 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Lipes, the director, comes through as Wiseman's disciple; this may seem obvious. Yet some choices, and especially something everyone notices, that is the absence of talking heads, something that Wiseman obliquely put in his Opera Garnier doc, make Lipes come through as more demanding through Ballet 422's elisions.

Peck, a corps de ballet speck in the illustrious New York City Ballet, gets a commission for a brand new choreography put to music of his own choice (why in the beginning we are only informed that this is music "from 1935" and not its title or composer, is a sour irony when the end comes)in just two months.

So, the documentary unrolls in a drama-less manner, since the corps de ballet, its top three dancers, the costume designer, the pianist - all pros included, are professional enough to pull it through just in time, with no bursts of tension.

I wondered by the time Paz de la Jolla, the choreographed piece, came to its premiere in the film, why the director decided then to put on a show, though wonderfully edited, of the choreographer's first steps and trying inspirations, to the more collaborative efforts and mounting - costumes! lights! - spectacle, for just some quick, somehow unredeemed glances.

And this is the sobering truth: after the premiere, the bows and the flowers, the quick, chill thrill and the relief all was well, Peck goes backstage to change into his costume for the next piece in the program, now as a low in the NYCB's ranks corps dancer.

The film concludes with a long take of a panoramic view of the MET where all that took place, with an almost cruelly extended portion of the next piece's music; and here the irony is manifold: Shostakovich's Piano Concerto no 2, whose andante we hear, was at once one of his most popular pieces, and one discarded as unusually cheerful and easy, even by himself in a deprecating manner, just to preempt any anti-proletariat criticisms.

How can one, after the stress of creation and premiere, slip into the shoes of a serial, by the numbers - now the title shines in a new light - dancer just right afterwards? This is a tough world, yes. But the film also passes, for its seeming genre, subtly and surprisingly an argument for the working classes that is itself sobering, even grim, yet ultimately artistic.
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Backstage I'm a little sad, but amazed too
Tron7925 November 2018
Warning: Spoilers
I was immersed in this documentary of the NYCB and Justin Peck's original ballet. I kept thinking I wanted to see more interaction between the people. All I saw was Justin going from one rehearsal to another before he took a walk to his apartment where he worked some more and then it was back to it the next day. It seemed like the ballet company barely spoke to each other. The backstage view of rehearsals and performances reminded me of watching Olympians getting ready to compete as they kept in their own world doing various rituals to get themselves mentally and physically ready. I am thinking that was part of the point. It didn't look like there was much time to socialize. I'm not even sure if Justin Peck enjoyed the process. He rarely smiled and just seemed intense most of the time.

The thing that struck me the most was after all of that work was that Justin's ballet was just the first of many for that evening. He barely had a chance to say "Good Job" to everyone before it was time for the next ballet. He changed out of his suit and back into his dancer's costume, and he was back on stage for the next ballet. Wow. That made me a little sad that they couldn't even enjoy the moment more and enjoy the brilliance of the work. But such is the life of a dancer in the NYCB.

I was amazed by the talent and skill of the musicians and the dancers. It did look like Justin's ballet was creative and I would like to see it in its entirety one day.

I did appreciate seeing all of the fine details that goes into making the ballet. I enjoyed seeing the little details such as actually cutting out the fabric for the costumes.

I do think there probably is more interaction going on somewhere at the NYCB. Since we were following Justin, we only had his POV, which was all work all of the time with barely a break to enjoy what just happened.

I do recommend this documentary. It's an intriguing look backstage at the NYBC and the world of an artist.
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Incompetent production
john_meyer21 May 2016
Great dancers deserve to be filmed by a competent director and crew. Unfortunately, this did not happen in "Ballet 422."

I have had the good fortune to have seen hundreds of live performances; have watched hundreds more on TV, laserdiscs, and DVD; and have myself filmed over a hundred ballet performances. I therefore know a little about both the art of ballet, and the techniques for recording it.

(P.S., I am also married to a ballet dancer.)

What I have found over the past forty years is that there are no right ways to film a ballet, or a documentary about ballet, but there sure are a lot of wrong ways.

This film seems to be an exercise in finding every possible wrong way to photograph dancers. Here are some examples:

* The camera person seems to have an aversion to feet. Virtually every shot cuts off the dancers' feet and lower torsos, and by tilting the camera to far upwards, gives us vast, pointless shots of the ceiling.

* I don't think I have ever seen an extended dancing scene in which the dancer is shown out of frame, with her arms occasionally appearing in the shot, only to disappear again. I am all for artistic shots, but if you're going to take a chance at doing something different, MAKE IT WORK!! This was just stupid and most definitely did not work.

* Whoever edited this has no sense of continuity. They also don't understand when to begin and end a shot. This movie could be used in an editing class to show exactly what NOT to do when editing.

* The lighting is awful. Yes, I know it is a documentary, and much of it is shot with available light. However, I also know that many of the shots required setup and WERE lit, or at least some attempt was made at lighting.

* The ending shots, where the movies should come together is a completely pointless series of juxtapositions that make absolutely no sense.

I don't think I have ever seen such an incompetent production, and this includes some high school films done by first-year students.

The only reason I give it three stars instead of one is that the solo dancing is absolutely wonderful (although the group dancing is pretty sloppy and lacks coordination).

So, if you do rent this, make sure you have a fast forward that works, and just watch the dancing and skip all the pointless and useless and incompetent footage that adds nothing but bloated, pointless time.

Jody Lee Lipes (the director and main camera person) should not ever again be allowed anywhere near a camera, not even the one in his cellphone.
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A good but not great film
xoxoamore6 February 2015
Warning: Spoilers
I just saw this film at Filmlinc (Feb 6, 2015). Let's just say that Jody Lee Lipes is no Frederick Wiseman. The film just not have the length of a Wiseman film (Ballet 422 is 72 minutes; Wiseman films run 3-4 hours). Wiseman usually spends at least 3 months with his subjects. Lipes explained he really knows nothing about ballet (though he is married to Ellen Barr, a former NYCB soloist and current head of their media operations). I think it really helps if you are (and have been) a NYCB frequent viewer. I was able to identify most of the dancers (even the corps). Albert Evans (who helps Peck) is a former NYCB principal and current ballet master. He is obviously in charge of Peck's work (in that he could set it on new dancers or another company). The person who talked to Justin about talking to the orchestra in Cameron Grant, a company pianist who both plays for rehearsals and class but also performances (Pictures At An Exhibition).

When I see a a Wiseman film I feel I really understand the institution he is portraying. Here, I didn't really feel I had any better understanding of the choreographic process. How did Justin pick this music? How did he pick the dancers? What were the money constraints? What was Peter's role (you know he had one)?

There were also a few things I really didn't like. One was Lipes showing Justin complaining to Albert about Amar Ramasar, one of his leads. Amar seems like a relaxed, good guy, but no dancer wants to be called out like that on camera. The other was Lipes final shot, which was of Concerto DSCH (which Justin is preparing to dance) with Bizet's Symphony in C (NOT its music) playing over the visuals. We only get about 2 minutes of what Paz DE la Jolla looked like on stage. That was really a letdown and something a Wiseman would never do. I mean, the whole film is about the creation of Paz and then show only 2 minutes? And end with Ratmansky's masterpiece? What a letdown. And if Lipes knew more about ballet, maybe he'd have realized a bit more what it means to end with another choreographer's work.

Anyway, I enjoy everything ballet and really like film, too. This is not a great film but if you like NYCB (and new work) this is a must see. If not, may be a pass.
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jjjppplll26 June 2015
I'm not a fan of ballet -- I've never been to a ballet. But I'm a huge fan of film. And I'm a documentary nerd. This documentary was perfect. I also have a high-level job in a high- pressure environment, so I was really fascinated by the intensity with which the key players prepared for the big premier. I found myself rewinding this film numerous times to re-watch scenes, because I was mesmerized by their beauty. My wife even came down and asked me, "What are you doing?"

The film does a wonderful job of showing all of the pieces that are necessary for putting together a ballet of the highest caliber. Like anything of excellence, it's hard friggin work, and somebody has to be in charge.

If you like film...and especially if you like ballet...this is a must see. Bravo.
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An unenlightening mess
grumpy_otter18 July 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Based on the description, I thought I would love this documentary, since I love ballet. Yet by the end, I didn't even like it.

I will clarify that the flaws in this are not those of the film's participants, who seemed like hard-working and dedicated people, but of the director. The director seems to have wandered into the creation of a ballet halfway through and turned on a camera, with no vision of the point that should be made or the tale that should be told.

I give it 3 out of 10 for the few scenes of dancing, which were very good. Watching these young bodies perform difficult movements with a seemingly effortless ease was amazing, but that is kind of the point of ballet--to make the difficult appear easy. All of the dancers were very skilled in that aspect, and the focus of the film, the young dancer and choreographer Justin Peck, seemed like a charming and talented young man. So that was the good; now on to the bad.

The film is described as "From first rehearsal to world premiere, Ballet 422 takes us backstage at New York City Ballet as emerging choreographer Justin Peck crafts a new work." But that's a lie--the first time we see the dancers working on the ballet they have already learned the steps, so it's not the first rehearsal. As I said before, we join the process halfway through.

Peck's process or inspiration is not mentioned or described at all--I had to google to find out that the ballet was inspired by California beaches. So that explains the costumes--sort of bathing suits. Watching the costume-design portions of the film was actually pretty interesting--or it WOULD have been if we had any idea what they were going for. Instead we just see them talking about fabric and design without any idea of what mood or tone they are trying to evoke.

Here is what would have made a great film. Start with Peck learning he will be choreographing a new ballet for the company. For a lower-ranking member of the company, this is a great honor and I imagine he would have been excited about it. Let Peck tell us what his vision is and what he wants to accomplish. Answer these questions:

How did you choose the music? What characteristics are you looking for in your dancers? What is the process of choosing dancers? What will the name of the ballet be? Does the ballet have a story or is it more of a mood piece? If it has a story, what is the story? What are the names of the dancers you have chosen? What parts will they play?

After those questions are answered, the film could show us how Peck teaches the steps to the dancers. Did he have the whole thing planned ahead, or were changes made during the rehearsal process?

Then, edit out of the film all of the parts showing Peck walking around, or sitting and listening, or looking at walls. I think that would have cut the length by about 30 minutes, so fill in with more dancing.

Those changes might have made this into a good film.

I should add that people unfamiliar with ballet may be confused by a few things--it would have been nice if the director had bothered to explain some of the things that were happening.

When I walk out of a documentary, I want to feel that I have learned something. At the end of this, I felt like I had just watched some stuff. It was mostly tedious, with a few interesting bits here and there.

I hope Peck and the lovely dancers in this mess will have successful careers, and I hope the director will take some lessons in how to tell an effective story.
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From first rehearsal to world premiere
iamKaylaPotter7 February 2015
From first rehearsal to world premiere, BALLET 422 takes us backstage at New York City Ballet as Justin Peck, a young up-and-coming choreographer, crafts a new work. BALLET 422 illuminates the process behind the creation of a single ballet within the ongoing cycle of work at one of the world's great ballet companies.

New York City Ballet, under the artistic direction of Ballet Master in Chief Peter Martins, boasts a roster of more than 90 elite dancers and a repertory of works by many of the greatest choreographers in the history of the art form. When 25-year-old NYCB dancer Justin Peck begins to emerge as a promising young choreographer, he is commissioned to create a new ballet for the Company's 2013 Winter Season. With unprecedented access to an elite world, the film follows Peck as he collaborates with musicians, lighting designers, costume designers and his fellow dancers to create Paz de la Jolla, NYCB's 422nd new ballet. BALLET 422 is an unembellished vérité portrait of a process that has never before been documented at New York City Ballet in its entirety.
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Beautiful Ballet, Disappointing Documentary
pinkpepper-160198 June 2015
Warning: Spoilers
I came into this documentary with open arms as a previous critic here had left a glowing review. I love ballet. In another life, I would have pursued it as a profession.

It makes a great foundation for the documentaries of late. Classical music combined with top-notch cinematography and beautiful movements--think David Gelb of "Jiro Dreams of Sushi."

But this gave us all of that with no story. The audience barely gets any background. Justin Peck is set to choreograph a new ballet for the New York City Ballet. The ballet's name and substance is mysteriously hidden from the viewer. The dancers and outside collaborators also remain anonymous.

I had a difficult time remaining engaged. While the dancers move beautifully and the process of creating itself so intriguing, without any commentary from the "characters" in this lack of "story," I was left bored and unfulfilled.

I suggest watching it during some downtime or while doing chores, because there are moments that you cannot help but watch. But others, less worthy, are left, perplexingly, uncut. We stare for what seems likes minutes on end at the minutely expressive faces while they look on at the real action to see.
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Avid interest only
thespoonies11 March 2016
As an ex - professional ballet dancer I found this an interesting piece to watch . I was excited to watch a "dance film" but found that It focuses greatly upon rehearsal and the choreographer yet sadly lacks any entertainment value. Dance, is about the artistic representation of life , love , passion, however this film has none. The part where the choreographer is asked to thank the orchestra is particularly cognisant of how narcissistic dancers can be . I would encourage young dancers to watch it to realise that this is again sadly actually what being a professional ballet dancer is all about. There are better things to do with your life .
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