Dance on screen: dance films at VIFF 2017

Submit to FacebookSubmit to Google PlusSubmit to TwitterSubmit to LinkedIn

Rebels on Pointe – Bobbi Jo Hart

Bobbi Jo Hart’s intimate portrait of Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, an all-male ballet company, allows us to see behind the scenes of their dance lives, but also shows us what daily life and family relationships are like for these dancers who are on tour most of the year. With a good amount of historical detail, views from critics, archival clips, and interviews with the current dancers and company administrators, Rebels on Pointe is an uplifting story of following your dreams and being proud of who you are.

Since 1974, the “Trocks” have been entertaining audiences with their male pointe work and send ups of classic ballets. The film captures their playful spirit well. Artistic Director Tory Dobrin, a former company dancer, leads the troupe with passion and he’s joined by many long-time dancers, including two who celebrated their 20th anniversary during the company’s 40th anniversary party. Another highlight was meeting some of the Trockadero moms who were all so proud of their sons.

Celebration was a common theme — these guys know how to have fun and they seem to be happy most days. While on tour in Ireland they go to their favourite club, on another occasion there is a joint birthday party, and we have the privilege of witnessing a wedding between two of the dancers. There are now three married couples in the company, which makes it much easier to keep up a relationship as they are rarely home.    

The company tours prolifically world-wide, having performed in Vancouver in both 2015 and 2017 (although before that they hadn’t been to town since 1985). They regularly tour to Japan, where they are absolutely adored by fans.   

These days, drag is not the taboo thing it once was, and the Trocks love to see children at their show laughing along with the adults as swans fall over and mess up their formations. They may be slapstick, but their fouetté turns are no joke.

The Bolshoi - Valery Todorovsky

Virtuosic leaps, harsh Russian upbringings, and the grandest stage in the world for a ballerina: The Bolshoi is a harsh yet loving look at the sacrifices and realities of the life of ballerina. 

Julia (Margarita Simonova), a street kid discovered by an ex-Bolshoi dancer, constantly vies for success with her roommate Karina (Anna Isayeva), a girl with a more privileged upbringing and a mom who can afford to buy her daughter’s success. Julia’s story is heartbreaking as her single mother resents her for leaving the impoverished family behind to pursue her dreams in Moscow. While Karina’s is equally troubling as she swears to never have sex for fear that it will affect her dancing. The two are perfectly paired frenemies in this hyper-competitive world.

One of the standout characters was Galina, played by Alisa Freindlikh, the veteran ballet mistress who is slowly losing her memory. She keeps photos with students’ names written on the back in order to jog her memory, and she is a no-nonsense instructor who only expects the best from her students. She quickly develops an affinity for Julia, and the two of them form a special bond. 

This is a beautiful, authentic film that highlights many of the triumphs and tragedies of the profession while incorporating sophisticated drama and stunning dance scenes.  

Louise Lecavalier: In Motion – Raymond St-Jean

At 58, Montreal-based dancer and choreographer Louise Lecavalier shows no signs of slowing down. She is still choreographing, performing, touring, and now starring in a documentary about her impressive career. As St-Jean said after the screening, he wanted to make sure that his documentary about a dancer actually included lots of dance sequences as so many dance films manage to include little dance.

St-Jean filmed Lecavalier in some key solos and duets specifically for the film, and they are stunning scenes providing a rare up close point of view. Battleground, in which Lecavalier and a partner spend much of the piece upside down against a wall, was filmed upside down to give the illusion that they’re floating in space. Her iconic solo So Blue was filmed in a warehouse and showcases her stamina and single-focused determination.

It was also a treat to hear from former dance partners, choreographers, and friends and family, including her twin girls who said that they view dance as a huge part of their mother’s identity but when she’s home she’s just mom. Seeing Lecavalier in rehearsal and in creation, she is a meticulous artist who always strives for perfection. One moment that had the theatre laughing came after a performance in Paris when Lecavalier began critiquing the piece the moment she was offstage, asking her partner to rehearse a move she felt could be adjusted.  

While Lecavalier’s career took off during her time with Edouard Lock’s La La La Human Steps, the film doesn’t dwell on this phase of her career, instead focusing on her present day activity and current work while infusing it with a good amount of archival footage and interviews. Lecavalier is unrelenting, dedicated, and full of energy. She is a powerhouse of Canadian contemporary dance, and this film pays homage to her still-growing body of work.  

Submit to FacebookSubmit to Google PlusSubmit to TwitterSubmit to LinkedIn