Flawed but Fun
Deborah Brooks | San Francisco, CA United States | 06/27/2000
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This semi-documentary film about the Bolshoi Ballet has flaws, but there are enough good performances and interesting classroom scenes to make it fun to watch. Unfortunately, the scenes that supposedly document the offstage activities of the dancers and students are very staged and sometimes laughable, and I found the score that accompanied the choreographed classroom scenes irritating. It's also frustrating that the format isn't letterboxed, so in the excerpts of films the dancers occasionally disappear.Several complete pieces are presented--"Ravel Waltzes," with Ekaterina Maximova, "Paganini," with Natalia Bessmertnova, and Ravel's "Bolero," with an ever-growing host of dancers stamping their way up and down stairs. For me, the best was the last: a Russian festival scene and gypsy dance from the ballet "The Stone Flower." The gypsy woman is performed by Natalia Kasatkina, one of the Bolshoi's best character dancers, the pas de deux features radiant ballerina Raisa Struchkova (who starred in the Bolshoi's filmed version of "Cinderella" in 1961), and there's plenty of Russian character dancing.Compare this video with three documentaries about the Kirov, Russia's other famous ballet company: "Children of Theatre Street" (1978), "Backstage at the Kirov" (1984) and "The Leningrad Legend" (1989). There are also two full-length productions of "The Stone Flower," the Bolshoi version (1990) and the Kirov version (1991)."
The right attitude
Yair Haklai | 08/26/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The right attitude: discipline, seriousness, concentration on the work with great love. The right use of music, the ability of dancers who know how to listen to music, through a great tradition of classical ballet. Dancing with the whole body from finger to toe, with full coordination, full involvement and full identification. These dancers have nothing to hide. I also like watching class of dancers who do not need to cover anything, not by customs, not by speed, not by effects. They have nothing to hide, they are responsible for every movement, and their honesty is convincing. The movements are very clean and precise, even the most simple one, as said in the DVD: "the simplest things are the most difficult and the most beautiful". I like the use of the camera and it's ability in Ravel's Bolero. I like the dance and it's original interpretation of the Crescendo with spanish dignity. This DVD shows the Bolshoi from a different point of view, and when we see what George Balanchine did with the New York City Ballet, adding to these materials the American spirit of freedom, we always have to remember the origins."
Not a good representation of the Bolshoi
I. Martinez-Ybor | Miami, FL USA | 01/22/2002
(2 out of 5 stars)
"I saw this picture in the theatre many years ago and remember not liking it, though I didn't recall exactly why. Seeing it again, it is quite obvious: with one glaring exception, it consists of the most unrelentingly awful choreography I have ever seen in a company of any nationality...... that it is the Bolshoi adds insult to the injury. Ravel's Valse Nobles are set to consistently incongruous choreography ..... 19th century dance steps (preparation and all, à la Petipa) to 20th century music which epitomizes chic ..... More than any other part of this film, it shows the aesthetic isolation of Soviet ballet, even in 1967. There is a serious disconnect between music and dance that is never resolved. For a good example of masterfully apt choreography to this music see Balanchine's La Valse which incorporates the Vales Nobles et Sentimentales in its first part (I believe it was choreographed in the 1940's). Paganini is an absurd contraption with long haired male dancers fiddling away on imaginary violins. At least one can close one's eyes and listen to Rachmaninoff.Ravel's Bolero is another atrocity. Imitation bad pseudo-Spanish smoothed-out flamenco dancing with long walking steps and tourist-book hand movements, no .... this is meant to be descriptive, not valuational. I wish it would at least have been funny. The only interesting choreography of this music I have ever seen was by Bejart, ironically with the great Maya Plisetskaya dancing up a storm on a stage-within-a-stage round table surrounded by an ever-more-excited male corps. When Jorge Don took over the Plisetskaya role it created a dynamic the '67 Bolshoi would have rather died than portray .....The star turns by the likes of Ekaterina Maximova are fleeting "visits" to the classroom performing a variation (less than a minute or so...) of classical ballet..... Laurentia, Giselle, etc..... but so short that if you look away for a minute they are gone. One does get a whif of the greatness of the Bolshoi, which adds to the irritation over the travesties being offered.Now, to close with the one worthwhile dancing in this film: an excerpt from Prokofiev's Stone Flower with the ever engaging Raïsa Strukhova.... who performed with the Bolshoi several times in America. Here one can truly discern the expressivity, energy, flashiness which marked Bolshoi dancing at its best. In the absence on DVD of such films as "Plissetskaya Dances" or the first Bolshoi compilation (which includes a butchered ... by the film-maker.... yet priceless second Act of Giselle with Galina Ulanova), it is worth seeing the Stone Flower segment alone to get a glimpse of what exciting Bolshoi dancing could be like during the Soviet era. For this segment only do I give the film two stars."