Prima Ballerina (2009) - Rotten Tomatoes

Prima Ballerina (2009)

Prima Ballerina

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Critic Consensus: A straightforward documentary about five Russian ballerinas, Bertrand Normand's Ballerina is enlivened by a fairy-tale sensibility.

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In the grand tradition of the Ballet Russes comes Bertrand Normand's portrait of five Russian ballerinas from theMariinski Theatre, formerly known as the Kirov. Behind any great ballerina lies the discipline and rigour thatcomes from decades of training and practice; and Russia's pre-eminent dancers -- superstars such as Nijinsky,Baryshnikov and Pavlova -- established the reputation of Russian dancers as the best in the world. The dancersprofiled in Ballerina are uniquely individual -- tough, insightful and exceptionally talented; onstage they revealno hint of the sweat, pain and hard work of the rehearsal studio. From Swan Lake to Romeo and Juliet, from thebackstage studio to performing on stages around the world, Ballerina captures the sublime beauty of ballet, in allits resplendent glory.

The classic ballerina exercises an art that is becoming rare, a profession as demanding that it is not wellknown. She fascinates because her fate seems so fragile. But there is a country where she still shines asresplendently as ever, Russia. Land of absolutes, the cult of beauty, wideness and nostalgia, also the landof a forgotten femininity: Russia is the land of the ballerina par excellence.

Director Bertrand Normand, director and lover of ballet, has for a long while been impressed by thesingularity the Russian Ballerinas. He went to St Petersburg looking for what makes these dancers unique.Through his personal research, he has found a new vision of classical ballet, its world and the power itexercises on the audience.Ballerinais about going through the curtain which separates the audience from the artist on stage.Norman's quest has taken him to the Mariinski Theatre, formerly called Kirov. This theatre has seencenturies of the world's finest choreographers and interpreters. There Norman meets Alina, Ulyana,Evgenia, Svetlana and Diana, who are the principal personalities of the film. Women with very differentcharacters, young dancers beginning their careers or world famous stars, they illustrate together the stepsand fundamental issues of a ballerina's life. Norman followed and filmed them over a period of months,onstage, during rehearsals and at home. He found for each one of them a challenge for the future.Whether it is the beginner leaving school to begin a new career, the injured star who must make her comeback , the rising star leaving her theatre to blossom somewhere else, they embody the many differentaspects of the Ballerina.The story of a ballerina is the story of a permanent metamorphosis. Whether it is at different moments ofher career or at different moments of the day, from the young girl suffering at rehearsals or the one whoshines with grace on stage, or the one who goes back to a common social life, the ballerina changesconstantly and her beauty appears in this transformation.Though the art of ballet is to appear graceful and light, this is the product of exhausting and painful workfor the dancers. Watching these artists, ballet becomes more than mere aesthetics, it convey to theaudience deep emotions. The artist can transcend the repertoire to create something new, never seenbefore. That's what happens when stars like Diana Vishneva, Svetlana Zakharova, and maybe even moreUlyana Lopatkina, are dancing.But it is while filming young dancers like Alina Somova ou Evgenia Obraztsova evolving and growingthat the director can show the viewer the mystery of the metamorphosis that characterizes the life and artof the "ballerina". --© First Run Featuresmore
Rating: Unrated
Genre: Art House & International, Special Interest
Directed By:
Written By: Bertrand Normand
In Theaters:
On DVD: Dec 8, 2009
First Run Features

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Critic Reviews for Prima Ballerina

All Critics (29) | Top Critics (12)

Dance aficionados will be sent over the moon by this compelling documentary from director Bertrand Norman, chronicling what it takes to be a prima ballerina in the Mariinski Theatre.

Full Review… | May 1, 2009
Chicago Tribune
Top Critic

As dazzling as they can be in performance, the ballerinas are even more breathtaking when a camera catches them alone in the shadows, dancing only for themselves.

Full Review… | April 30, 2009
Boston Globe
Top Critic

The movie is an admirable look into the venerable St. Petersburg company and how dancers thrive or just survive in the physically challenging world of dance.

Full Review… | March 27, 2009
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic

A jewel of a documentary.

Full Review… | March 13, 2009
Washington Post
Top Critic

Such a brief glimpse into these women's lives and art whets the appetite for more; alas, Ballerina ends far too quickly, leaving only their willowy shadows behind.

Full Review… | February 26, 2009
Seattle Times
Top Critic

Ballerina will be of interest mostly to balletomanes, but even folks who don't know their right foot from their left will find inspiration in the lives of these devoted dancers. Besides, who isn't moved by Swan Lake?

Full Review… | January 16, 2009
New York Post
Top Critic

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