Ballet Russes

COMPOSERS: Various
LABELS: Revolver Entertainment
WORKS: A film by Dayna Goldfine & Dan Geller
PERFORMER: A film by Dayna Goldfine & Dan Geller

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A caution first: this film should properly be called ‘Ballets Russes: Life after Diaghilev’. The impresario and his pioneering achievements, along with Fokine and Nijinsky, make only the briefest of appearances some way into the story, which properly deals with what happened to the company after his death in 1929.

Was it a decline, or a new golden age? Evidently a bit of both, at various times between then and the 1960s; and the overriding virtue of Goldfine’s and Geller’s slant is that it captures a glamorous and eccentric rainbow of leading dancers in their 80s and 90s when the documentary was made.

We kick off with the ‘baby ballerinas’ of Vasily de Basil’s company in 1932, barely in their teens at the time, most memorably Nathalie Krassovska, a vivacious octogenarian who melts into girlishness when executing a scene from Giselle with veteran gym-bunny George Zoritch at a 2000 reunion.

Dancers of other nationalities enter the roll of honour as the split between ‘Colonel de Basil’s Ballet Russes’ and old Diaghilev hand Leonid Massine’s ‘Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo’ leads to new directions on tour in America, Australia and South America.

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One major disappointment, though, is that the many ballet clips are hardly ever ‘synced’ with the right music, giving us countless curious misalliances. The spirit and flair of the elegant veterans is the thing, though, and in that respect the filmmakers do their subjects proud with plenty of impish editing. David Nice