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?


  1. Do we have more leisure time today compared to people who lived just a generation ago? Even though my mom was -and still is - skinny enough to be a prima ballerina, she chose gymnastics instead. Not to cause offense, but are crimes against women very prevalent during the 1980s? Or is it just those 1980s BETAMAX-era action flicks about ballerinas seeking retribution-style justice just a product of Hollywood's overactive imagination?
    Fortunately, I have enough time not just for ballet lessons - even though I wind up playing cello during most of the duration of the class, but also for Airsoft, those supposedly lethal martial arts techniques even though I enroll to them just to keep my slender figure given the widespread availability of infantry-style assault rifles that can kill humans as far as 500-meters away.

  2. To us girls, ballet seems to be our own French Foreign Legion - and good ones being taught in Francophone are great. No young ladies will be tempted to giggle and blush every time the word "position" is mentioned. My social studies class with the word "Hung Parliament" didn't faired as well.

  3. I too thank that it is a good thing that avant garde ballet schools are Francophone for the reasons cited. My high-school social studies class has recently become a pubescent teen giggle fest everytime the teacher talks about the UK hung parliament.
    Speaking of the first ballet 3-D movie, I first heard of the Pina Bausch 3-D ballet biography being worked by wim Wenders near the end of March 2010. While just a few days ago, StreetDance was promoted as the first european 3-D dance movie slated for release this May 21, 2010. Which of these movies are the first ever European dance movie shot in 3-D?

  4. Given the relatively esoteric topic of the Pina Bausch and Wim Wenders collaboration even though I love ballet. The British StreetDance 3-D movie has better chance of being shown in theateres during its slated May 21 opening due to the popularity of the subject - the dance competition on Britain's Got Talent. Thus the probable reason that it is touted as the firsr European 3-D movie. While the Wim Wenders / Pina Bausch collaboration - even though it is probably done 6 months to a year before the StreetDance movie - will very likely go straight to video - as in DVD.