Tag Archives: ballet

Dance with me

It’s happened again.

I’ve found another ballet-centric book to obsess about.


Astonish Me was recently reviewed in Entertainment Weekly. As soon as I read the premise, I put a hold on it at the library.

While I was waiting,  I read Maggie Shipstead’s debut novel, Seating Arrangements,  which was a best seller and won several awards.

It tells the story of a wedding weekend and two sisters who were trying to find their happy ever after.

I recommend it…and I have a feeling I will this new one, too.

Then maybe a trip to Lincoln Center?

Dance, dance baby

I love a good documentary on a Saturday morning.

And First Position, which is currently in theatres and available OnDemand, is great.

The feature film documents the journey of six young ballet dancers as they attempt to qualify and compete in the Youth America Grand Prix in New York City, the most prestigious youth ballet competition in the world. 

This contest isn’t just about trophies or medals; it’s serious business.  The winning dancers receive full scholarships to top ballet schools and contracts to the most prestigious ballet companies in the world — jobs that are few and far between.

The filmmakers have amazing access to the dancers at home, in the rehearsal studio, and in the wings before, during and after their competition performances.  It’s pretty incredible…and no small wonder the documentary was named the audience choice’s first runner up for Best Documentary at the Toronto Film Festival where it premiered.

See?  Told you it was great.

Hit the mats

On my birthday Monday, I played hooky and went to see Win Win, Paul Giamatti’s latest movie.

It’s a wrestling film.

Now, what I know about wrestling — well, I don’t know anything about wrestling.  We didn’t have the sport at my tiny high school, and I never attended a match during college.

(I’m not even sure my college had a wrestling team.)

I went to see Win Win based solely on the cast.  Paul Giamatti.  Bobby Carnavale.  Amy Ryan.

And like many of the men who no doubt were coerced into seeing Black Swan even though they had no interest in ballet, I just hoped there wasn’t too much wrestling in Win Win.

Well, there was.  Lots of it.  And while at first I was distracted by the whack uniforms and unusual moves, the wrestling matches were kinda fascinating…and reinforced the movie’s message about what winning and losing are all about.

The performances are really special, too.  I didn’t feel like I was watching a movie as much as being a bit of a voyeur in a family’s life and personal problems.

And they do have a few problems, this family.  But seeing how they resolve them?

That’s the win-win.

Scary feet

I have never attended a live ballet performance.

Living steps from Lincoln Center, I am particularly ashamed to admit that.

But the truth is, what goes on behind the scenes in professional ballet has always been far more interesting to me than watching the actual dance.

That’s why I was one of the first to attend the movie Black Swan at Lincoln Plaza Cinemas yesterday.  The psychological thriller starring Natalie Portman goes back stage at a New York City ballet company as it launches its new season with a performance of “Swan Lake.”

Natalie plays a young soloist tapped to play the lead after the prima ballerina retires.  The movie follows her struggles to play the duel roles — the innocent White Swan and the sensual Black Swan —  that the part requires.

Now, obviously I enjoy movies about dance.  I’m pretty sure I’ve seen them all, good and bad.  But if you typically don’t do dance films and hadn’t considered seeing Black Swan, I encourage you to change your mind.

This movie is a thriller, first and foremost, and a fascinating glimpse into the world of professional ballet.  Natalie Portman’s performance — both on and off the dance floor — is not to be missed.  You’ve probably read about her weight loss and her year of ballet training.  She backs up both with a powerful emotional performance.

Any Oscar talk is completely justified.

I left the theater a little creeped out, but the lights of Lincoln Center provided the perfect beacon for my walk home.