RSS

Tag Archives: Ballet

A Winter’s Tale (2014) – The Royal Ballet

So, this year has been a strange year for me, movie-wise. I went nuts at the beginning of the year for ballet and Japanese cinema. That’s almost all I’ve been watching; it’s becoming an obsession. I’ve been trying to watch live recordings of ballets, too. The Royal Ballet, The Bolshoi, Opéra national de Paris, any recordings I can find. I raided my library for all the ballets they possessed and began streaming them from Amazon, but what really got me going was when I purchased from Amazon The Royal Ballet Box Collection, which contains 22 different ballets of varying length. It’s been an absolute bonanza and I have been having to pace myself so I don’t watch all 22 in one month.

One of the things it has made me realize is that, unlike opera, ballet is still very much going strong, with new and successful productions of original ballets, as well as reinterpretations of classic ballets and traditional interpretations. One such original ballet is “A Winter’s Tale”, adapted from Shakespeare’s play of the same name. The choreography is provided by Christopher Wheeldon, one of the most successful contemporary choreographers of ballet, and the music by Joby Talbot, a successful British composer.

The story of the ballet follows that of the play, though somewhat trimmed. Leontes (Edward Watson) is king of Sicily, who suddenly and unaccountably takes it into his head that his wife, Hermione (Laura Cuthbertson), is having an affair with his best friend, Polixenes (Federico Boneli), king of Bohemia. He banishes the friend and puts his wife on trial, which results in his wife dying, his son dying, and his rejection of their baby girl, who he believes is not really his child. The baby girl is abandoned, but fortunately rescued and raised by a shepherd.

The next act is considerably lighter in tone, choreography and color. It is mostly a party, with the shepherds dancing and Leontes daughter, Perdita (Sarah Lamb), now grown, becoming engaged to the son of Polixenes, Florizel (Steven McRae), though neither knows of the other’s identity. When Polixenes discovers that his son wants to marry the daughter of a shepherd, he is furious and Perdita and Florizel flee to Sicily, where, in the next act, all is revealed, along with one big surprise.

I’ve recently been thinking about the similarities between ballet and silent films (and recently learned at Movies Silently that dancing and ballet and silent films actually have a long and close history): they both can employ pantomime, both use the physical body to express emotion or tell a story, both require music, and both feature people of remarkable physical ability (think of Fairbanks or Chaplin and many others).

What was interesting is how much a plot-heavy ballet, like the first act of “A Winter’s Tale” reminds me of a silent movie. Especially because Wheeldon’s choreography is further from traditional ballet and employs many modern dancing elements. It is not as “leapy” as classic ballet. And traditional ballets, like “Sleeping Beauty” or “Swan Lake” generally have microscopic plots that set up banquets or balls or weddings or birthday parties so that massed groups of people can be present to dance. There is not actually that much plot to further. But there is more in “A Winter’s Tale,” which means that characters have to interact and communicate more using pantomime and dance. Leontes has to use dance to communicate his growing jealousy, which is presented like a creeping sickness of mind and body.

The second act, on the other hand, is more traditional. We have our mass of people dancing, simply to celebrate rather than to specifically advance a plot point, and we get a romantic pas de deux (essentially a dance that is a duo). It is more free and open, less restrained, to match the less claustrophobic atmosphere of the outside. The Sicilian court, on the other hand, is grim.

It’s marvelous to see how ballet has changed. In musicals, it has been said that the song and dance must advance the plot. That is harder to do in ballet because a good part of the reason people watch ballet is for the sheer beauty of the dance, but it still needs a plot to give the dances emotional resonance (usually, though there are many plot-less and beautiful ballets) and it is fascinating how modern ballets have also adapted so that increasingly the dance is integrated into the story. I have occasionally read complaints about certain ballets that they do not contain enough dance (or enough pas de deux), so it seems like a tricky line to walk so that the performance does not become a highly skilled pantomime show, but remains dance. I think “Winter’s Tale” succeeds very well, however. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed watching it and highly recommend it to all lovers of the ballet.

This post is my second contribution to “En Pointe: The Ballet Blogathon,” hosted by myself and the wonderful Michaela, Be sure to read all the other posts, all of which have been marvelous.

Advertisements
 
13 Comments

Posted by on August 6, 2017 in Movies

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

“The Jealous Lover” from A Story of Three Loves (1953)

James Mason and Moira Shearer

A Story of Three Loves (1953) is an anthology film containing three unrelated short, romantic stories, all of a bittersweet nature. One story follows the romance between Leslie Caron (who sadly does not dance) and Farley Granger, except that Granger is really a boy turned into a man by fairy godmother Ethel Barrymore. Another is the romance between a suicidal Nazi prison camp survivor and a reckless trapeze artist played by Kirk Douglas.

But it was the first story – “The Jealous Lover” – that I was especially interested in viewing. It stars James Mason, Moira Shearer, and Agnes Moorehead and features a lovely dance by Shearer, set to Rachmaninoff’s “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.”

Paula is an aspiring dancer who is told that she must quit dancing at the cusp of a breakthrough in her career. She has a bad heart and is told that if she dances, she will die. James Mason is Charles Coudray, an impresario searching for a way to improve his most recent ballet, something that seems to elude him. When he sees Paula, he believes he might have found what he’s been looking for.

The plot is, it must be admitted, a bit of a pastiche of other ballet works. Paula (Shearer) has a weak heart that could kill her if she dances, rather like the title character of the ballet “Giselle.” But she feels that life without ballet is not really life at all, rather like her character in Red Shoes (fortunately, James Mason is no Lermontov). And the idea of a dancer/artist as inspiration for an impresario or dancer/artist in need of an impresario? That’s been done many times, including in the film starring James Mason: The Seventh Veil.

There are so few opportunities to see Moira Shearer dance, however, that I am grateful for every single appearance on film she made (rather like Wendy Hiller, an actress who generally shunned film and preferred stage). And James Mason, it must be said, is probably the best actor at acting opposite magnificent artists. He does so in A Star is Born with Judy Garland, and here, with Moira Shearer. He is able to be a part of the scene, reacting to the artist, and yet defer to the artist. Not many people are able to do that (click here for a scene between Mason and Shearer, when he catches her dancing on stage).

The other thing that interested me about “The Jealous Lover” is that the choreography is done by Frederrick Ashton, who is credited with creating a distinctive English, lyrical style of ballet (Moira Shearer danced in his Cinderella before making Red Shoes). He choreographed many ballets that now form English ballet’s core repertoire and I couldn’t help but wonder if his work on the film in 1953 provided the inspiration for his ballet to the entire “Rhapsody to a Theme of Paganini” in 1980, which was created for Mikhail Baryshnikov.

If you like ballet, I would definitely recommend you give it a viewing. And if you want more Moira Shearer and Frederrick Ashton, then you can’t go wrong with Powell and Pressburger’s Tales of Hoffman, which Ashton actually appears in as a character.

This has been part of the “En Pointe: A Ballet Blogathon.” Be sure to check out all the other posts about ballet, which can be found here.

Below is a clip of Moira Shearer dancing to part of the Rhapsody. It begins at 3:27 minutes into the video.

Below is an introduction to “Rhapsody,” choreographed by Ashton in 1980, and being performed by The Royal Ballet.

 
24 Comments

Posted by on August 4, 2017 in Movies

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

“En Pointe: The Ballet Blogathon” Begins Today!

Today, I am delighted to say, is the day to celebrate all things ballet in film! Co-host Michaela and I will be updating the posts as they arrive throughout the weekend. Her home page for this event can be found, here.

Just a quick reminder! Because of how popular the ballet blogathon proved to be, we added an extra day. The blogathon is now from August 4th-6th.

It has been wonderful to discover so many other fans of ballet and to discover just how often ballet has been the theme of film. It has helped me to appreciate that ballet is very much alive and well, with a well-founded presence on screen and stage.

 

 

Day 1

Realweegiemidget Reviews – Black Swan (2010)

Love Letters to Old Hollywood – Twelve Favorite Water Ballets from Esther Williams

Thoughts All Sorts – Ballerina (aka Leap!) (2016)

Caftan Woman – The Mad Genius (1931)

The Midnite Drive-In – White Nights (1985)

Taking Up Room – An American in Paris (1951) 

Wolffian Classics Movies Digest Dance, Girl, Dance (1940)

Movies Silently  – The Dancer’s Peril (1917)

Christina Wehner“The Jealous Lover” from A Story of Three Loves (1953)

Diary of a Movie Maniac – Dancers (1987)

Into the Writer Lea – Dance as a Means of Showing, Not Telling, Cinderella (1955)

Sat in Your Lap – On The Town (1949) and The Pirate (1948)

Silver Scenes – The Death of the Swan : The Unfinished Dance (1947) and Ballerina (1937)

Charlene’s (Mostly) Classic Movie ReviewsLimelight (1952)

Day 2

Taking Up Room – Save the Last Dance (2001)

The Dream Book Blog – Greta Garbo in Grand Hotel (1932)

To 10 Film Lists – The Red Shoes (1948)

Lifesdailylessonsblog – The Song of Scheherazde (1947)

Love Letters to Old Hollywood – Shall We Dance (1937)

Cary Grant Won’t Eat You – The Fun of Center Stage (2000)

Pure Entertainment Preservation Society  – Hans Christian Andersen

Critica Retro – Never Let Me Go (1953)

Anybody Got a Match? – Silk Stockings (1957)

Day 3

Crimson KimonoExposed (1983)

Cinematic Scribblings – Red Shoes (1948)

Silver Scenes – Russian Ballet Films of the 1940s-1960s

Christina Wehner  “A Winter’s Tale” (2014)

The Wonderful World of Cinema – The Ballet Scenes from Les Uns et les Autres (1981)

Phyllis Loves Classic Movies – Never Let Me Go (1953)

Blogferatu – Black Swan (2010)

 
30 Comments

Posted by on August 4, 2017 in Movies

 

Tags: , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: