La Danse

I hadn’t seen a movie (in a theater) since August. How is that possible?

But finally this past week I went. It was La Dance by Fred Wiseman, a documentary about the Paris Opera Ballet. Stunning footage of ballet rehearsals and performances, both modern and Nutcracker.

Saw Nutcracker here in Boston many, many years ago, first by the Boston Ballet and then when my daughter was a Polichinelle (some kind of doll? a candy?) in a suburban production. I am not a fan of the Nutcracker. Too long, too treacly, too commercial. I know this one ballet keeps companies afloat in America (maybe elsewhere, too) as the holiday performance to which little girls are taken in velvet gowns and headbands.

I’m not much for classical ballet at all, but La Danse focuses mostly on the modern stuff, which is as spiky and exciting and sexual as modern dance, with legs elongated to eternity by toe shoes and a technique that makes me gasp.

Best of all, Wiseman knows how to film dance, especially where to put the camera so you don’t feel like you’re missing something. He sees dance like a dancer.

The movie is 158 minutes long (yikes) and has no dramatic arc whatsoever. I kept wanting to hit the pause button so I could look at a program: I needed to indentify dancers/music/choreograhers… I needed to breathe and take in what I’d seen. It was dance by fire. Worth it to be sure. But I can’t wait to watch it again on DVD.

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