Friday, April 30, 2010

Will 3-D Cinematography Renew Ballet Appreciation in the 21st Century?

As ballet no longer registers in the consciousness of most moviegoers, will a Pina Bausch biography shot in 3-D renew public interest in ballet?

By: Ringo Bones

As one of the most beautiful fineries of Western Civilization, it is somewhat unfair that ballet had been hastily consigned to the dung-heap of contemporary Western pop culture. Despite of a brief renaissance in the 1980s – remember famed premier danseur Mikhail Baryshnikov appearing in the movie White Nights? My first-hand memories of how young women perceived the art of ballet during the 1980s was its uselessness against fending off attacking muggers and rapists. Making them more interested (or does prioritize seem more apt?) in types of martial arts that guarantee “attacker neutralization” and concealed small-arms proficiency. While the hi-fi revival of the 1990s got me going to live ballet shows for the live orchestral accompaniment, it does seem that Western interest in ballet has been slowly on the wan.

Will the biographical film of famed ballet choreographer Pina Bausch shot in 3-D by famed director Wim Wenders ever renew the public’s waning interest of the beautiful art of ballet? After all famed German modern dance choreographer Philippine “Pina” Bausch did became a leading influence of the development of the Tanztheater (Dance Theatre) style of dance and spread Classical Ballet awareness of audiophiles during the Golden Age of Stereo. But first, here’s a brief history of ballet.

Ballet comes from the Italian word ballare, meaning to dance. The word ballet is used in two ways. In one sense it means a form of theatrical presentation in which a story or mood is depicted by means of dancing – usually accompanied by music – in a production with scenery and costumes. In the second sense, ballet means a complex, highly refined technique of dancing in which the Western World calls Classical Ballet. This technique gives the dancer great physical strength and control. A style characterized by dignity, simplicity and elegance.

The history of ballet, as we know in the form today, begins in the 16th Century when the Italian Catherine de Médicis married the heir to the throne of France in 1533. In her new homeland, she was said to have introduced gelato (Italian ice cream), lettuce, artichokes and the art of ballet. At first, only men took dancing seriously; women did not appear on the stage. But in 1681, Le Triomphe de l’amour a ballet by Jean Baptiste de Lully featured the first ever professional female dancer – Mademoiselle Lafontaine. So great was her success that others soon followed. Like their male colleagues, they were trained at the Académie. Their schooling was not nearly so rigorous as it is today, but it was based on the same fundamental techniques that are now taught throughout the world.

Given that I have a few young Ukrainian ladies currently enrolled in my vacuum tube electronics class – i.e. a class mostly about electric guitar amplifier construction and maintenance – I have now first hand close up experience on the beauty of Classical Ballet. Their renditions of the five positions, the pirouette and the soubresaut are the best that I’ve seen so far live and in close up. Even though I’ve no idea what a perfectly executed pirouette and soubresaut looks like live without being limited by the 24-frame per second delivery of the medium of film.

According to my ballerina pals, the frame-rate limitations of film does put a damper on the grace and beauty of ballet in comparison to seeing one performed live. But they – like me – are also curious on how much of the dimension and beauty the upcoming 3-D film biography of Pina Bausch and her ballet choreography is captured by famed director Wim Wenders. I mean the proper location and arrangement of the dance performers that can be captured via good 3-D cinematography is an integral part of good ballet choreography, right? By the way, Wim Wenders first became famous to us who have yet to turn 40 from his work in the U2 music video “Stay (Far Away…So Close!)”.

Will Wim Wenders’ 3-D cinematography of Pina Bausch’s film biography ever renew the waning interest of Classical Ballet? Well, if you ask me, I have even doubts that this particular 3-D biography of Pina Bausch will ever be shown in the 3-D cinema of our local mall. Or if it did manage to become as popular as James Cameron’s Avatar, I’ll be very surprise. And if it does become as popular, will Avatar the Musical be not so very far behind?