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Balanchine & the Lost Muse: Revolution & the Making of a Choreographer, Strictly Ballroom on Blu-Ray, Ballet in Cinema, Bare Feet web series, Media Maven: PNB's Lindsay Thomas

 

Svetlana Zakharova in the Bolshoi's La Bayadère. Photo: Damir Yusupov, Courtesy Ballet in Cinema.  

 

CINEMA

 

Ballet in Cinema’s summer schedule includes encore showings of three Bolshoi Ballet productions. Catch willowy Svetlana Zakharova as Nikiya (with Maria Alexandrova as Gamzatti) in La Bayadère, the ethereal Ekaterina Krysanova in La Sylphide, and Zakharova in The Pharoah’s Daughter. See www.balletincinema.com for dates and theaters.

 

 

BOOKS

 

Balanchine & the Lost Muse: Revolution & the Making of a Choreographer. 

By Elizabeth Kendall. Oxford University Press, 2013. 304 pages. $35.

 

In her first book, Where She Danced, Elizabeth Kendall revealed the feminist underpinnings of modern dance pioneers like Isadora Duncan. Now in Balanchine & the Lost Muse she embarks on a search for the Russian wellsprings of the choreographer’s imagination and a parallel quest for Lidia Ivanova, the ballerina who drowned on the eve of his departure from Russia. The book reads like a detective story (among her discoveries is that Balanchine was born out of wedlock), but has pages of luminous writing about the choreographer and his ballets.

 

From memoirs and rare archival materials, Kendall evokes the “half-sumptuous, half-Spartan” existence that Balanchine and “Lidochka” led at the Imperial Theater School. She brings the teachers to life: tall, dashing Samuil Andrianov, who taught the boys, and ballerina Olga Preobrajenska (spelled here the Russian way—Preobrazhenskaya), who taught the girls. Kendall pays tribute to the heroes who kept the school going during the coldest, hungriest days of the Revolution. Some are well known, but others, like Grigory Isaenko, who took Balanchine under his wing, are unsung. Together, says Kendall, they imbued their students with the utopianism of the Revolution.

 

Lidochka was never Balanchine’s lover, but she was a core member of the Young Ballet, his first company. For Kendall, she was the first Balanchine ballerina—passionate, musical, living “in the moment.” Kendall glimpses her in the elegiac ending of Serenade and in Mozartiana. “The miracle of Balanchine’s rich and volatile life,” she writes, “is that he stayed true to the vision of ballet that he and Lidochka were searching for,” a vision of “transcendence, beauty, purity, excitement.” —Lynn Garafola

 

Georgi Balanchivadze and Lidochka Ivanova, 1921. Photo: Courtesy Bernard Taper.

 

 

BLU-RAY

 

Strictly Ballroom

Lionsgate Home Entertainment. 95 minutes. $14.99.

 

Before Baz Luhrmann took on the American canon (The Great Gatsby), the Shakespearean tragedy (Romeo + Juliet), and movie musical (Moulin Rouge), he used dance as the medium to tell a love story. Released in 1992, Strictly Ballroom is a fun romp that affectionately plays up ballroom’s campy sides (sequins! big hair!) but also addresses the real passion that lies at the heart of the sport. Luhrmann’s directorial debut draws from his own background: His mother, like that of the protagonist, was a ballroom dance teacher, and Luhrmann himself studied ballroom in his native Australia. The film stars Paul Mercurio, who performed with Sydney Dance Company (and who, more recently, has appeared as a judge on the Australian and New Zealand Dancing With the Stars series), as a maverick on the ballroom competition circuit who finds an unlikely new partner in a beginner dancer (who’s father, in a memorable scene, does a mean pasodoble). —Kina Poon

 

 

WEB SERIES

 

Calling travel junkies: What better way to see the world than through dance? Mickela Mallozzi, a substitute instructor at The Ailey Extension, parlayed her passion for dance, music, and travel into a web series called Bare Feet. The show, composed of five-minute episodes, has followed her to a traditional procession in Minturno, Italy (where her family has roots), to milongas in Buenos Aires, and to various cultural festivals at home in New York City. With an appealing openness and genuine enthusiasm for the world’s dance traditions, Mallozzi is an ideal host. Travel with her to Fiji, Spain, Jordan, and Turkey in upcoming episodes at www.travelbarefeet.com. —K. P. 

 

 

MEDIA MAVEN 

 

This is the first in a new series profiling dance people who use media in innovative ways.

 

A still from Lindsay Thomas' video of Cylindrical Shadows, Courtesy PNB

 

“Excuse me, who made the trailer about my piece? Where is she?” When Lindsay Thomas, Pacific Northwest Ballet’s videographer, overheard Christopher Wheeldon asking about her, she was terrified. Had she taken too many liberties in creating the film-style preview for Variations Sérieuses, with its fast and dramatic cuts?

 

In fact, he absolutely loved it. Thomas’ imaginative approach to film and photography has brought international visibility to PNB’s artists and work.

 

Thomas studied ballet in Northern California before attending Skidmore College. Her self-devised internship, in which she built a YouTube channel for Skidmore’s dance department, helped her get hired at PNB. She aims to have something for everyone, videos that appeal to the general public and others for “ballet fans who are even more hardcore than I am, who want to know every historical, academic detail about staging. I never want it to get predictable.”

 

Lindsay Thomas, with PNB's Amanda Clark. Photo: Mark Bauschke, Courtesy PNB

 

The videos range from general day-in-the-life featurettes to production-specific clips. A short video of Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s Cylindrical Shadows, performed in shifting outside locations, with hidden costume switching adding an element of whimsy, was one of Thomas’ “kooky ideas” that was executed beautifully. (Filming had to be incorporated into the rehearsal schedule, and Thomas had to get approval from artistic staff and the dancers’ union.)

 

After four years of working with the company, she feels the dancers “have come to trust me. I tell them, ‘It’s my job is to make you look your best.’ I think the dancers are also realizing that it’s really good self-promotion to be featured.”

 

For dancers interested in making their own videos, Thomas has some advice. “Scour the internet. Look at all of the videos that ballet companies are doing and see what works.” (She singles out The Royal Ballet and The Australian Ballet for their outstanding work.) “See what’s getting the most views, what people write in the comments. What do you like? Why do you like it? Is it because it has fast cuts? Because the music’s good? Because it’s behind the scenes? Video is all about storytelling. There always needs to be a story that people can grab onto and feel emotions about.” And as for length, “Three minutes is the maximum when you’re starting. Cut, cut, cut!” —K. P. 

 

See Thomas’ work at www.youtube.com/pacificnwballet.

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