Ballet Stars

Hollywood portrayals of the dance world tend to be either campy love stories or dark, twisted melodramas. But a new French drama coming soon to American cinemas offers a more introspective (and authentic) perspective of one dancer's search for artistic fulfillment. Polina, co-directed by French choreographer Angelin Preljocaj and his wife Valerie Müller, tells the story of a talented Russian ballet student who turns down a contract with the Bolshoi Ballet to pursue a contemporary dance career. Starring Anastasia Shevtsova (a Vaganova Academy graduate who has performed with the Mariinsky Ballet), former Paris Opéra Ballet étoile Jérémie Bélengard and Academy Award-winning actress Juliette Binoche (a beautiful mover in her own right), the almost two-hour film has no shortage of dancing.



The movie, based on a graphic novel by Bastien Vivés, follows Polina's rigorous Russian training, which her working-class parents struggle to pay for. Her future at the the Bolshoi seems set, but when a French contemporary company comes to town, she's so inspired by the performance that she follows her boyfriend to France to audition for its choreographer/director (played by Binoche). She works obsessively to change her technique, but ultimately ends up in Antwerp, auditioning endlessly and tending bar. It takes a chance meeting with Karl, a choreographer and improvisation instructor, to help open her eyes to new possibilities.

Preljocaj and Müller direct Polina with a dancer's sensitivity. Many of the rehearsals were shot at his company's studio in Aix en Provence, and scenes from his ballet Snow White are featured throughout. Yes, there are subtitles, but don't let that deter you—Polina is relatable to any artist who's ever struggled to find his or her place in the dance world. The film opens August 25 in New York and September 1 in L.A., followed by a national roll-out. To find it at a theater near you, click here.

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I train at the school of a professional modern dance company, but I'm also interested in a ballet career. Will training at a modern studio hold me back, even though I take ballet there? How can I balance the two? —Hadleigh

In this day and age, having skills in modern or contemporary dance can only help you—the repertoires of most companies require dancers to easily switch between full-length classics and contemporary choreography. However, you must ensure that you're receiving serious, high-quality ballet training if you want to dance professionally. Ballet classes designed for modern dancers are usually very anatomically safe and encourage creativity, but they may not push you enough technically—especially if you're the only aspiring ballerina in your class. Ask yourself some hard questions: Who are your teachers, what are their backgrounds and do they know you want a ballet career? Does the studio make it possible to take advanced ballet classes five to six days a week? How often do you have pointe class? (You should be taking several a week.) Are you by far the best in your class? If so, you may need more competition.

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