Sunday, December 5, 2010

'The Company' and Ballet Dancers in Pop Culture

I watched the film 'The Company' yesterday evening. The film has a quiet, "day in the life of" tone that is free of the usual, pop-culture-friendly, ballet stereotypes (we all know the awful, numbing stereotypes in which all the men are gay and all the women are anorexic). It also features some magnificent dancing by the incredible Joffrey Ballet of Chicago.

I'd seen the film a couple of times before, but there was one part that made me laugh out loud yesterday, and it wasn't Malcolm McDowell announcing, "practise safe sex, babies!" I have nothing negative to say about Neve Campbell, who stars in the film, because she is an actul ballet dancer who is incredibly gifted (she graduated from Canada's prestigious National Ballet School). She by far outshines other horrid portrayals of dancers such as Julia Stiles' performance in the film, 'Save the Last Dance' (that film makes me so angry). So the low point of the film was clearly due to a poor directorial choice.

The hilarity occurs when Neve Campbell's character returns home from a performance. She peels off a small plaster to reveal (gasp!) a blister on her big toe joint! She then proceeds to massage her obviously terribly sore, aching feet. THE PERFORMANCE WAS IN SOFT SHOES. IT WASN'T EVEN ON POINTE. Her feet look perfectly fine except for that one blister which we, the audience, are clearly supposed to cry in sympathetic shock over. God, I laughed so hard. My mother's feet look worse than that after walking in high heels for an hour.

How insulting that a film otherwise so realistic and unpretentious should expect me to fawn over the dancer who, after performing a dance in soft shoes, has one bloody blister (pun intended) on her foot. Please, my feet are missing toenails! If my little sister, who's a rower, had been with me, she would have laughed at least equally as hard. Her palms are as rubbed raw as my toes. I would have had to fight to retain her respect for ballet dancers. To all artists who wish to portray the difficult lives of ballerinas: we do not show you our feet because you do not want to see them. Please save us from disgust at your wimpy attempts at portraying the hardship of our toes.

In other news, 'The Black Swan' starring Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis is being released in cinemas soon. I suppose I shall have to see it, because it's a ballet movie, but also because I love Natalie Portman. I have heard, however, that the film is rich with those dreaded ballet stereotypes and that, while her attempt is commendable, Natalie Portman's dancing makes it very hard to really believe that her character is a prima with NYCB. Oh, disappointment...

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