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Ballerina - dance documentary DVD review
BALLERINA Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) rating: 5 stars
Featuring: Svetlana Zakharova, Ulyana Lopatkina, Evguenya Obraztsova, Alina Somova
Director: Bertrand Normand   Distributor: First Run Features
DVD release: 21 July 2009   Runtime: 77 min. (1 disc)
Format: Color, DVD, Full Screen, NTSC, Subtitled
DVD Features: Aspect ratio 1.33:1, Audio tracks (Dolby Digital Stereo - Russian, English, French), Subtitles (English), Photo gallery, Filmmaker biography, Dance film gallery

Ballerina is a documentary following five ballerinas from the Russian Mariinsky Theatre (also known as the Kirov). Principal dancers Alina Somova, Ulyana Lopatkina, Evgenia Obraztsova, Svetlana Zakharova, and Diana Vishneva were selected to be followed and documented over a five-year time span because of their amazing contributions to and success in the world of ballet, both in Russia and internationally.

Two of the principals were chosen for their remarkable skills, grace, and the future before them. Director Bertrand Normand 's documentary approach highlights the nitty-gritty realities of ballet for those who are students and just starting to make their way into the new reality of theatre. The demanding lifestyle can quickly make or break an aspiring ballerina and continually tests the best of the best.

Two other principals are established prima ballerinas for their theatres, and the documentary follows the routes their careers follow. Many young ballerinas aspire to that glorious title and attendant fame, but very few ever make it to that level.

One prima is an unusual dancer for the amazing emotion and acting she brings to her roles. Her career is leading her to dance internationally, and the documentary follows her work with a French theatre. The remarkable skills and techniques drilled into ballerinas in Russia make them marvels to their international counterparts.

The other prima has made her career upon the Russian stage, playing the same roles and dancing the same choreography because no one ever comes up with something new. Regardless, she must still dedicate grueling work and training to each performance. No matter how many times the prima ballerina performs the same role, the dance is never the same. The dedication and hard work that a ballerina begins with can never falter, or she will fail.

The last ballerina Normand follows is a former prima who suffered a serious injury. After taking a two-year hiatus for healing, marriage, and childbirth, she is attempting to stage a comeback. Most dancers' talents and skills flag and fade over such an extended break, and the intended comeback only confirms that they can no longer dance. This ballerina, heralded as one of the best dancers Russia has ever produced, is hungry to dance again and plans a systematic approach that will enable her to reach her goals. Over the duration of the production, she does achieve her goals, though most are not as fortunate as she.

The world of the ballerina is an unknown to most, the art of deception taken to new heights when viewers watch their grace and artistry onstage. If more knew how painful the work a ballerina puts into her trade, there would probably be far greater appreciation for their talents. Normand has done a phenomenal job of revealing the ballerina's world. This intimate, detailed portrayal of the principal ballerinas' lives leaves little to the imagination regarding the training and dedication the lifestyle requires. Fascinating.
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reviewed by Sonia R. Polinsky
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