Deborah Brooks | San Francisco, CA United States | 10/23/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This academy award-nominated 1977 film is a co-production of western and Soviet film professionals, narrated by the late Princess Grace of Monaco. There are no subtitles--all translations are done by voiceover. It is one of three documentaries about the Kirov Ballet and its school, the Vaganova Choreographic Institute, in St. Petersburg, Russia (called Leningrad at the time of this film). The others--"Backstage at the Kirov" (1984) and "The Leningrad Legend" (1989)--are better in terms of production values and believable candid scenes. But "Children of Theatre Street" is the only one that focuses primarily on the students, and therein lies its great appeal.Theatre Street is the popular name for Rossi Street, on which the entrance to the Kirov's school is located. Entrance exams are held annually. Thousands of children, aged 10-12, apply; only 20 are selected. Some of the rigorous audition process is shown--the children are chosen for specific physical proportions and natural physical abilities. As the narrator tells us, "Talent is considered worth measuring only when it occurs in the right body." Those chosen face eight years of relative luxury and privilege in the Soviet Union, but also a life of hard work and discipline.Featured are an 11-year-old girl, a 13-year old boy, and two girls from the graduating class, with much of the focus on preparations for the upcoming graduation performance. The students are shown going to performances, a beach on the Gulf of Finland, and Petrodvorets, the tsars' summer palace near St. Petersburg. They are also shown in a meeting of the Pioneers, the first step in becoming a member of the Communist Party. Some of the activities and interviews with the students were obviously staged (such as a pillow fight when the boy "sneaks" into the girls' dorm) and many are suspect. I wondered how much of the purported closeness between the featured students was for the sake of the film. One real and touching moment, which the scriptwriters chose not to translate, was when the two graduating girls, who are roommates, have finished their much-anticipated (and dreaded) graduation performance and are congratulating each other, full of excitement and relief.Marring the film is its frequent stage-iness, as well as one messy sequence which intersperses classroom scenes with performances of "Swan Lake," while the music of the ballet is superimposed over the classroom piano, and music from one part of the ballet is played while the dancers perform another part. However, there are plenty of views of beautiful St. Petersburg, and the scenes of the students in classes and performances are delightful, so I give this film four stars. One of the Kirov's illustrious alumni, Rudolf Nureyev, is quoted on the jacket: "...at the Kirov School, there will always be another vintage year, and 'Theatre Street' tells why.""
Deborah Brooks | 08/04/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This video offers a wonderful "behind the scenes" look at the school wehere many of Russia's top ballerinas and premiere danseurs were trained. Some of the scenes appeared very staged, but I doubt that a Western director would have been given full leave to photograph most parts of the school and/or students. It was filmed in the 70s, when communism was in power, and therefore, the school was state supported. Though outdated in that respect, the film captures the timelessness of the Vaganova Choreographic Institute. The beauty of the ballet is one that never goes out of vogue, no matter who is in charge of the government. There are several fantastic clips of the Kirov Ballet that present themselves throughout the film. This video made me want to learn to speak Russian and move to St. Petersburg."
Riveting video on professional ballet training in Russia
Deborah Brooks | 04/29/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"We were given this to view by my daughter's dance teacher when she was 8 years old and probably watched it 5 or 6 times that weekend. For the next two years my daughter wanted to move to Russia to train in this school. A very moving documentary of the intensive selection and training the students at this school went through before moving on to the professional world of dance in Communist Russia."
Andromeda | Chicago | 02/09/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I found this DVD very inspirational in terms of motivating students of ballet to really work hard and strive for perfection. It was interesting and informative to see how the Russian students were picked and what happens to them in their schooling, up to a final performance where they are seen by the public and how they later become successful dancers. There is a wonderful segment showing the older student and how she learns old choreography from an older former great Russian ballerina, like it is handed down reverently from generation to generation. I loved the dancing of these students, as well as the joy they showed in their training."
The Children of Theater Street
John Farr | 07/05/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This candid, lovingly made 1977 tribute to the Kirov strivers who make big sacrifices to attend the legendary training ground of Balanchine is a sheer delight, both aesthetically and narratively, letting us peer into a highly disciplined world of pure art where expectations are high and the weight of tradition almost oppressive. With Grace Kelly's warm, vivid narration providing the context and translations, we watch as 20 students out of 1000 are carefully selected according to predetermined physical requirements, then spend close to a decade mastering their dance skills. You can't help feeling anxiety and then excitement watching one graduating ballerina make her heart-fluttering debut on the Kirov stage after months of punishing practice. "Street" is a tremendously enjoyable, behind-the-scenes look at greatness in the making."