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Dansaren (1994)
Documentary

The career of a classical ballet dancer is short and often riddled with injuries, and it takes a special kind of artist to submit to the discipline and strenuous regimen needed to dance with a world-class company. Follows the young and gifted Katja Björner through years of intensive training at the Royal Swedish Ballet School as she develops into an international ballet star.

Dansaren (1994)

Balance, Shoes

Filmmakers have three impossible challenges. How do you film lovemaking? How do you film dynamics of a group at a table? How do you film dance?

This last is particularly interesting from a viewer’s perspective. Because the others are so familiar, you just need a prompt to recall how it was for you. But dancers need to do work for you that you could never do for yourself. They both create and convey, but how to convey on film?

Aronofsky did well with ‘Black Swan,‘ because he is able to add into the mix his invented bodycam. Others have done well with invasive cameras, usually when the choreography is a fight or battle. But ballet still remains a challenge.

Here is a filmmaker that uses a pretty stationary camera, several for each event. Some cameramen are instructed to focus on body parts as they move. Others do long and middle shots. There is much footage of rehearsals and performances so they can be mixed. Mirrors are often handy and used. Sound is collected at least in two places and in the edits is shifted. The final product is edited brilliantly, dare I say as a dance? The shifts in time and intimacy work, in part because we are so hungry for that intimacy.

There is, in fact a lot of talk about intimate things. And we want so much to experience the promise. We dwell on our young dancer while she warms up, a beguiling body, an admirable disciple. We see her pant, sweat — and yearn.

We have an on-screen observer, a dodgey old fart who presumes to talk about the glory of performance. His role, it seems, is to provide contrast to the beauty.

But trouble. We do fall in love with the grace of the film itself. We do fall something faintly resembling love with this young girl, her physical being. But she is so uninteresting as a person, we wonder how in the world, when she masters her body, and then masters the craft, and then masters the dance and all that heavy Russian business about method — when after that she is able to shine through and show her inner richness, how, how will we care? How lovely does dumbness have to be for us to think it conveyed passion?

There is a narrative spine, about the fitting and making of custom shoes. This part is informative, particularly about the mechanics of balance.

I will look all day at lovely ballerinas, and with you dear reader will admire dance in the filmmaking. But I think it a once in a lifetime experience to in any way be truly touched and transformed by dance. And that has to be is shared space that film cannot yet convey.

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Ted’s Evaluation — 3 of 3: Worth watching.

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