Voice of Dance asked me to review “Ballerina,” which I believe is still in theaters. I do recommend it. From my review:

“In an early scene from Bertrand Normand’s documentary Ballerina, 10-year-old girls await their entrance examination for the Kirov Ballet’s Vaganova Academy in their underwear. A tiny candidate is brought before the judges, where an examiner bends and twists and prods her in stony silence, like a specimen at a dog show.

The students who get in must be thin and supple, with a freakishly high degree of rotation in the hip sockets, long necks, small heads, and pliant backs. But what Ballerina proves so compellingly is that physical attributes are only the beginning of what make a fully artistic dancer. A great Kirov ballerina is a woman of tremendous will, creativity, intelligence, and psychological strength.

Ballerina is probably the most raw and unglamorized portrayal of the dancer’s life I’ve yet seen. At a rehearsal, 19-year-old Evgenia Obraztsova finishes a variation and collapses over the barre, hardly able to stand; when her coach says that she looks tired, she apologizes that “it’s harder in the morning” and pledges to try again. Later, preparing for her debut as Odette in Swan Lake, she is picked to bits by three of the Maryinsky Theater’s top administrators; she listens without complaint and simply tries to do what she is asked, even when the instructions are unclear. ”

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