Monday, February 1, 2016

Blu-ray/DVD/digital download debut: Nelson George's documentary, A BALLERINA'S TALE

Back in the summer of 2010, TrustMovies reviewed a wonderful documentary about a couple of budding black dancers in Brazil entitled Only When I Dance. One of the points the viewer took away from this fine little film was how very difficult it was for black ballerinas to break into the ranks of the best of the world's ballet companies. Giving us a real Black Swan in one of the world's major dance companies, for instance, has not been an easy task, but the career of black ballerina Misty Copeland finally proved that this could be done.

The documentary about Miss Copeland -- A BALLERINA'S TALE directed by Nelson George, (shown at right) -- arrived theatrically in limited release last fall and is now available via DVD, Blu-ray and digital download. Though it is entirely career-oriented and we get to know almost nothing about Miss Copeland's personal life, it's worth a look, especially for ballet fans and anyone interested in how that color barrier, still standing rather more firmly than many of us might like, can be made to quake a bit, if not yet topple.

In addition to its fairly standard this-happened-and-then-that format, the movie does offer up a bit of history of blacks in dance, with emphasis on the women rather than the men. We also hear from dance aficionados and historians, and from various black women in places of power in the entertainment industries. Mostly though, it's Copeland (above and below) all the time, and this pert energetic performer shows us that a black woman with, yes, breasts, muscles and a strong body can dance the roles we may have thought only belonged to flat-chested, somewhat emaciated, white porcelain doll-like creatures,

This "look," explains one of the experts here, was due as much to the tastes and whims of George Balanchine, as to anything else, because pre-Balanchine this kind of dancer's body barely existed. One of the pleasures of the film comes from viewing Copeland in action, as her muscular but lithe body shows us the kind of ballerina most of us will have not yet seen. (Some of Mr. George's camera angles, however -- under the ballerina's skirt? -- could use some adjustment.)

Nowhere near as interesting and full of life, history and surprise as the outstanding 2013 documentary on Tanaquil Le Clerc, the movie should still take its place in the canon of documentaries about notable dancers. From IFC Films and running 84 minutes, A Ballerina's Tale makes its DVD, Blu-ray and digital download debut tomorrow, February 2 -- for purchase or rental.

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