“We are New York City Ballet. We Invite You Into Our World.” Thus reads the strapline, and that’s exactly what one of the world’s foremost ballet companies has done, in a video documentary which has just gone live on AOL On.
Entitled city.ballet., this documentary takes you beyond the footlights, the costumes and the glamour of the world of ballet, to the harsh realities of the life of a dancer. Captured in unadorned actuality is the dedication, the endless striving for perfection, the exhaustion, but also the joy and elation, of the challenges which go with mastering the near-impossible requirements of arguably the most physically demanding profession in the world. Yet those who have chosen to follow it are driven by a passion, dedication and total devotion, which to many would probably defy reason, but within which lie the magic and mystery of this most captivating of art forms.
Narrated by executive producer – and NYCB board member – Sarah Jessica Parker, the documentary reveals that every member of the Company is a graduate of the School of American Ballet. These dancers have trained together since childhood, their lives inextricably linked by their shared ambition, drive and desire to become part of what’s described as “a uniquely American aesthetic”, co-founded by choreographer George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein in 1948. They were joined the following year by Jerome Robbins who – with Balanchine – helped to build NYCB’s impressive repertoire, and firmly establish the Company in New York. Peter Martins is the present Ballet Master in Chief, and he says, quite simply, that in New York City Ballet “complacency does not exist”.
Indeed, when dancers choose to dedicate their lives to a career in ballet, they also choose a life of total sacrifice – there are no half measures with ballet – it’s all-consuming, dominating every facet of a dancer’s existence. As one of the footnotes in the documentary puts it: “When you spend thirteen hours a day rehearsing, you can kiss a normal social life goodbye”.
Divided into 12 segments of roughly 5 minutes each, the documentary gives a fascinating insight into the daily lives of the Company members. Much of the footage has been shot during rehearsals, some of it shows the dancers at home, and the interviews with all ranks – apprentices, members of the corps de ballet, soloists and principals – are frank, revealing and often entertaining. There is absolutely no disguising the fact, however, that every one of them feels enormously privileged to be part of the world that is New York City Ballet.
city.ballet. – by Sarah Jessica Parker Pretty Matches Productions, and the Emmy award-winning Zero Point Zero Production for Aol On Orginals – can be viewed on this link.