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17 November 2018

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You don’t have to be enamored of Russian ballet to be struck by its beauty, by the intense years of dedication and hard work (to say nothing of innate talent) it takes to succeed in the rarified air of the Mariinsky or the Bolshoi.

This excellent new documentary takes you behind the scenes at the world-renowned Vaganova Academy in St. Petersburg, the guardian of Russian classical ballet (see Russian Life, Nov/Dec 2008). It traces the lives and fortunes of a handful of ballerinas in training, following recent graduates through their first years of service in the Mariinsky, while comparing their careers with those of world-renowned primas. In all, it is an astoundingly intimate, up-close portrait of these dancers’ lives.

One of the most unexpectedly fascinating parts of the film, however, is when the cameras turn to interview a leading dancer from Paris. His declaration of the unparalleled toughness and grit of Russian dancers is insightful as only the judgement of one’s peers can be.

— Paul E. Richardson

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Reviewed in Russian Life: July/Aug 2009