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From Polina to Anatomy of a Male Ballet Dancer, there are plenty of ballet-themed films hitting movie theaters this month. But if you're looking for something to share with the ballet-loving youngster in your life (or just want to channel your inner dance-happy tween), Leap! might be for you. Released in France in 2016 under the title Ballerina, this animated film tells the story of Félicie (Elle Fanning), an 11-year-old French orphan who arrives in Paris with her best friend, fellow orphan and aspiring inventor Victor, during the height of the Belle Époque. Félicie dreams of becoming a ballerina at the Paris Opéra Ballet. Penniless and with nothing to lose, Félicie finds guidance in POB theater caretaker Odette (played by pop singer Carly Rae Jepsen) and "borrows" the identity of a spoiled brat in order to enter the Opera Ballet School.

While training at the school, Félicie comes up against mean girl Camille, voiced by "Dance Moms" star Maddie Ziegler. In a classic Center Stage-style plot, Camille is pushed by her mother to dance without truly loving it, whereas Félicie dances from a true sense of passion. In order to make the film's dancing look realistic, directors Eric Summer and Éric Warin used keyframe animation of POB artistic director Aurélie Dupont and étoile Jérémie Bélingard's dancing. It's always nice to see real dancers consulted when dance is represented in the realm of pop-culture, and from what we've seen the animated characters' technique looks spot-on (er, with some flying feats thrown in.)

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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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