A Portrait Of Giselle (1982)

MURIEL BALASH

Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBBB.  USA/Canada, 1982.  .  Produced by .  Academy Awards 1982.  

The classic ballet that is not only an audience favourite but is also among the most beloved by those who actually work on the stage is examined in this touching, detailed documentary. It follows Anton Dolin, now in his golden years as a teacher, who is preparing American ballerina Patricia McBride for the lead role in his latest production of Giselle. Instead of merely teaching her the steps, he narrates the saga of the ballet from its original inception and tells the tales of its many productions, relating stories of the personalities of the many women who played the lead and, wherever possible, interviewing surviving leading ladies who played the role in the past century. Most touching is his interview with Olga Spessivtzeva, now an octogenarian who survived a nervous breakdown that followed not long after her starring on stage in the role, and in her dotage still showing the effects of her experience. All the interviews are terrific, and the many scenes of dance, some current and others from the archives, are simply beautiful.

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