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Ballets Russes Review

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A documentary looking back at the birth of modern ballet. Many of the original company are still alive, and have been candidly interviewed.

★★★★★

One of the finest documentaries ever made about the performing arts, this magisterial history of the companies that danced under the name Ballet Russe will enchant dance aficionados and novices alike. Assembled over years of patient research, the archive footage is simply wonderful, with the tinted fragility of the imagery adding to its energy and elegance.

But what makes this memoir so mesmerising is accessibility, and the vibrancy of the surviving dancers, who recall squabbles and the contributions of key choreographers George Balanchine and Leonard Massine with infectious enthusiasm. Equally compelling are the stories of the ’Baby Ballerinas’ and the contrasting fates of Native- and African-Americans, Maria Tallchief and Raven Wilkinson.

A peerless blend of archive footage and personal memoir that not only chronicles the history of a ballet institution, but which also brings the art and its artists to vibrant life.