Black Swan, keepin’ it real?

Even my elderly ballet teacher is freaking out a little about Aronofsky’s Black Swan.
Surprises me! I mean, the man is up on his pop culture, he knows what the haps is, he stays current even though he is a million years old. Surprising that with all the ballet movies he’s seen, all the hype and build up, even he is not above getting caught up in the omg!BlackSwan mania.
It started at the barre. He casually asked had any of us read any reviews of that Black Swan movie? And what did we think?
General consensus included praise of Natalie Portman for putting in the work: a year of daily ballet practice, even while working on other movies.
We move on.
In the center we do a new combination, something involving fouettés and lots of epaulment, which means presentation of the shoulders, and is an easy term to remember because it sounds like epaulet, and you wear epaulets on your shoulders. Assuming you are a toy soldier.
We finish and he says, “There! If they do the movie correctly, there will be a classroom scene with an exercise like that! That is very like a Bolshoi exercise.”
And a couple exercises later we add two jumps into a combination, both jumps involve facing croisé right, jumping and kicking the right foot up and holding it at second in the air, then fouetté turn in the air to land on the left foot with our bodies facing the left side of the room in arabesque. There’s a masculine powerful version, and then there’s a gentle feminine version that ends with the standing leg bent so we can lift our other leg really high into that arabesque. Upper bodies come forward a little for balance.
I keep trying to figure out what that ending pose reminds me of. Something animal. Can’t quite get it until Smirnoff instructs us to hop between jumps. So it’s: jump, land in arabesque, hop, foot down, jump with other foot, arabesque, hop, and close, and I’ve got it!
Velociraptor!
The arabeque-leg arcs up like velociraptor’s tail, standing leg bent like a dinosaur’s, body leaning forward to support that head with that big fang-ley mouth, tiny arms held out, and then that little hop just clinches it: total terrible lizard. We are no longer in ballet class, we are in Jurassic Park.
Once we’ve done lé fouetté velóciraptor, Smirnoff gets to the point he’s been wanting to make the whole class.
The hop is very Bolshoi, he says. Only done at the Bolshoi! But the choreographer for Black Swan is Benjamin Millepied. Who Sminoff says was one of Balanchine’s chosen ones, along with Ratmansky and some other guy. Millepied is French. And Smirnoff is going to be watching to see if the choreography is overly French.
And I’m thinking, ‘why would that be a problem? Didn’t the French, like, invent ballet?’
But then I get it: the fictional company in Black Swan is located at the Lincoln Center. Which is associated with the NYCBallet, which is Balanchine’s and therefore indicates that the company is a Balanchine company. Balanchine was Russian.
Smirnoff is just concerned the movie keeps it real for his homeboy/compatriot, Balanchine.
At least, I think that’s what’s going on.
Btw, since Millepied is a French name, it is pronounced, “mil-lay-pe-yay” not “mileh-peed” like the little bug with the million legs. But still can’t help but imagine him mid-jeté with a million little pointed toes. Funniest name for a ballet dancer ever or what?!

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About adultbeginner

Had my first ballet class Ever at the advanced age of thirty-two. Yikes.
This entry was posted in Movies, tv, and live stuff, Technique and Class and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Black Swan, keepin’ it real?

  1. Bobbo says:

    This is a psycho-thriller movie in a ballet setting, not a “ballet movie.” It’s not about trying to explain ballet or ballet life to non-dancers — if you want that, go see Turning Point or White Nights or Center Stage or something. I’m a dancer, and I don’t give one rat king whisker whether or not the company is authentic to Mr. Balanchine’s. But I’m SOOO looking forward to watching a dark thriller unfold, and I love ballet of all kinds.

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  3. studiodcfa says:

    Love love love this post. Keep ’em coming!

  4. Cait says:

    Le fouette a la velociraptor… will have to remember that one – my ballet students will love it :)

  5. It Girl NYC says:

    Actually Ballet was begun by the Italians — codified by the French. Same with many of the other “french arts” — seems the relationship between Catherine De Medici and The King of France bid France well.

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