'New York City Ballet: Bringing Ballachine Back' follows the New York City Ballet, lead by Master in Chief Peter Martins to the Mariinsky theater in St. Petersburg, where ballet legend and NYC Ballet co-founder George Ball... more »achine, along with other greats, took their first ballet steps. The eagerly anticipated trip is the first for the company since 1972 and is gracefully illustrated with both behind-the-scenes and performance footage.« less
"This is a great documentary about New York City Ballet. It's a behind the scenes view of the company as they tour to Russia and shows how the company prepares for performances. You see the dancers in class, onstage, in rehearsals and performance. Interviews with dancers and artistic staff and how NYCB is carrying on the legacy of George Balanchine. Would be great for anyone interested in ballet from newly minted balletomane to professional! A great addition to any dance library."
A wonderful film that takes us with the New York City Ballet
Craig Matteson | Ann Arbor, MI | 11/20/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I found this DVD to be a fascinating viewing experience. George Balanchine was born in St. Petersburg in 1904. His parents were Georgian and his father was a well known composer and his mother was devoted to the arts. At nine he enrolled at the Imperial Ballet, which was disbanded after the Soviets took over. He made his living playing the piano anywhere he could earn some money. He eventually returned to formal study of both music and dance. After his graduation he began his professional work in dance. He joined Diaghilev's Ballets Russes in 1924 and continued to develop his art. Balanchine came to America in 1934 and formed the American Ballet in 1935. After various other companies and incarnations the New York City Ballet emerged in 1948. He returned to St. Petersburg in 1962 (and I believe also in 1972 - but I am not sure). The great choreographer died in 1983. He was often married and divorced and had passionate and publicized affairs with many dancers. Yet, he had no children. But he left behind a rich legacy of glorious ballets and this film is a great presentation of those dancers who care to keep that legacy alive and part of our living artistic traditions and I bless them for it.
Peter Martins became the artistic leader of the New York City Ballet after his own career as a dancer with the Royal Danish Ballet and the company he now leads. He now choreographs new ballets, teaches dancers, and does all it takes to keep the company alive and performing at a very high level. I love his pride in the legacy he both inherited and helped create with Balanchine, Robbins, and others. He notes that the present company dances as well or even better than when the dances were first created.
This movie shows the companies return to St. Petersburg in 2003. We see this as a part of the company rather than as the audience. The dancers work hard, struggle to get the dances right, have physical and emotional problems, and end up dancing gloriously. I enjoyed the views from the wings where we see what the dancers are doing in preparing their entrances. We even hear the sound of the dancers on the stage, which is very different than what the audience hears. The sounds of the footsteps, the rustling of the costumes, the breathing caused by the tremendous exertion (and yet controlled), and everything else are all familiar to anyone who has performed on stage.
We also get to hear the thoughts, concerns, and see the work of the other professional artists who help the dancers prepare and get ready for their performances. And, of course, we get interviews with many of the principle dancers and even hear some from the company. I also enjoyed hearing from the Russian dancers. Independently, they all seemed to admire the American dancers' leg movements, but thought their arm positions were somewhat less than theirs. They also commented on how fast the Americans danced in rehearsals and classes. The audiences who were interviewed loved the American dancing. All the Russians commented on how wonderfully surprised they were at the quality of the dancing by the New York City Ballet.
We get to see some works by Balanchine and a work each by Jerome Robbins and Peter Martins. This is not a film of complete performances. You get to see big pieces of the numbers, but you also get to see the other things I noted: what goes on in the wings, in the lobbies, and in the dressing rooms. We also get to see a performance by the wonderful conductor Valery Gergiev and hear his comments about performing with the NYC Ballet. All fascinating stuff.
Martins wisely notes that no one gets rich or famous from ballet. What you do get is bunions, a bad back, and joint problems. You have to love it and have a passion for it to do the art well and this film shows us a group of people who have that love and passion and I am so glad that it was captured on film to share with us.
Treat yourself to this DVD.
Reviewed by Craig Matteson, Ann Arbor, MI "
Bringing Balanchine Back
TheBanshee | United States | 12/17/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It has been decades since I faithfully attended NYCB performances, and the company seems to have gotten a lot bigger. There were a few names I recognized from the stage: Jock Soto and Darcy Kistler, but as large as this company has gotten, the quality of the dancer's technique and the dancing itself is as high or higher than it ever was. And I remember McBride, Martins, Ashley and Farrell in their prime.
It's hard to believe that this company's dancers are so young (average age, we learn, is only 21) and so good. Many of them were not born when the revered "Mr. B." passed away, but under the able stewardship of Peter Martins, this company has more than kept Balanchine's legacy vibrant.
This is a documentary about the return to Russia, to the Maryinsky theatre where Balanchine danced his first steps, as well as Pavlova, Nijinsky, and Baryshnikov. The return commemorates Balanchine and the tour will take place during the "White Nights" festival (so called because at that time of the year, the sun sets after midnight and rises soon afterwards).
For most of the company, it is about dancing. But for some older company personnel who had visited Russia during prior NYCB visits, there seems to be an anxiety about presenting Balanchine's work in the country of his birth in a way that will both honor Balanchine, and not ruffle too many Russian feathers. (Some Russians interviewed in sound bites sound a little skeptical of American dancers' ability to perform the work of a native Russian as it should be performed, and a couple of Russian ballet students make little digs at this or that about the Americans' technique, but I guess it is awkward in a way to go back to perform the work of someone who left Russia to form this company. But awkward or not, the Maryinsky audience definitely knows its ballet. And most of the audience members interviewed are quite gracious in their comments. (Sometimes it's hard to tell, since the subtitles are in a drab color, and they don't stand out well, they're not up for long enough to read them, and they are miniscule to boot.)
With the exception of a local conductor who inconsiderately disappears at intermission for 20 minutes, leaving the dancers to involuntarily literally 'cool' their heels (and other muscles) behind a closed curtain just before a performance, the performances go off well.
I was hoping that I would see the full "Serenade," one of the loveliest of Balanchine's works. But we do see the first part in performance, and it is absolutely beautiful. Other parts of ballets were shown as well, and the sequences were extended enough not to be frustrating, but I wish I could have seen the entire ballets. There are generous slices of NYCB classics like "Symphony in C," "Agon," "Symphony in Three Movements," and "Western Symphony" as well as newer, non-Balanchine ballets like "Hallelujah Junction," set to the piano music of (I believe) John Adams. Unfortunately we never see "Dances at a Gathering" (Robbins to Chopin) or "Other Dances" (ditto) though I believe they were performed.
This is a lively and entertaining documentary. I recommend it.
One more word: the editing was very clever. Editing can make or break a ballet video, and they did a great job here in the performance sequences, especially in the cuts from a dancer leaping offstage to his suddenly seeming to leap right at you as if you'd been in the wings instead of in the audience. I enjoyed this little trick very much."
NYCD & Balanchine
Ailsaellen | Palo Alto, CA USA | 12/16/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This DVD is an insight into a world class ballet company, NYCB, preparing to perform in the Marinsky Theatre, St Petersburg. There is a buzz of excitement as the dancers rehearse and travel to Russia. The interviews with dancers and staff members is illuminating....and of course the dancing if superb! The comments from audience members is a nice touch.
I recommend this DVD for any ballet enthusiast especially those who love Balanchine. I just wish the DVD had been a bit longer!
The 'special features' is a series of short interviews, it is a bit repetitive but still a nice extra touch."
David Thierry | Chicago, IL United States | 03/01/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This documentary proved more enjoyable than I hoped it would be as it wisely offers film of the performances of the various ballets and varied they are. I was not disappointed. From Balanchine's earlist ballet to Tchaicovky's Serenade to Bizet's Symphony in C to Stravinsky's Symphony in 3 Movements to Phillip Glass Pieces choreographed by Jerome Robbins and Peter Martin's choreography to music by John Adams to Balanchine's cowboy froth A Western Symphony to music by Hershey Kay and almost the entire pas de deux from Stravinsky's Agon. That's quite a feast and what a revelation all these modern pieces must have been for the Russians but the audiences were warmly receptive to everything. Just enough documentary to be called one and plenty of dancing. Highly recommended."