Prima Ballerina

Critics Consensus

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



Reviews Counted: 26

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Average Rating: 4.4/5

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Movie Info

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 Features

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Critic Reviews for Prima Ballerina

All Critics (26) | Top Critics (10)

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.

May 1, 2009 | Rating: 3/4

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.

Apr 30, 2009 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…

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.

Mar 27, 2009 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

A jewel of a documentary.

Mar 13, 2009 | Full Review…

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.

Feb 26, 2009 | Rating: 2.5/4

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?

Jan 16, 2009 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

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