Tag Archives: nikolai alexander vladimirovicherov

MASSIVE review of “The Turning Point” (1977…before my time)

15 Jul

Another movie review…this time, “The Turning Point” starring Shirley Maclaine, Anne Bancroft, Leslie Brown and Mikhail Baryshnikov.  By the way, I hope these movie reviews aren’t annoying…but please understand two things; number first, I didn’t engage the world of dance until a couple of years ago so all of these movies are still new to me, and second, I currently have waaaaay too much time on my hands and a fantashtik local library with a good (free!) selection.  In addition to “The Company,” I watched “The Red Shoes” a few months ago, and have “White Nights” on reserve.  “The Red Shoes” I don’t think I’ll be doing a review of (for now)…I’ve already forgotten many of the finer details, and I actually found it difficult to follow and really intense.  In other words, I’m pretty sure I’m too dumb to get that movie…but it was an interesting one nonetheless.  The drama and history of the whole Diaghilev and Ballet Russes era is one that I just barely scratched the surface of, and to those well versed in the history, it probably holds more significance (meanwhile, simpletons like me were hoping for a “Wizard of Oz” ballet…I’m an idiot).  However, I am starting to do a little research and such here and there and I really like “The Firebird” (one of my favorite Stravinsky works of all time), although there are parts that remind me of trippy Russian cartoons.  If you’re an Ohio State student and have ever been to Hagerty Hall (which is the foreign language building), the café on the first floor has several television screens that broadcast channels from all over the world, and sometimes there would be these DE-ranged Russian cartoons with lots of swirling colors and monsters that would continually morph into other monsters.  Your guess is as good as mine.

ANYWAY, so back to “The Turning Point,” I was really annoyed by the very first scene in the movie, which features the corps in the Kingdom of the Shades scene from La Bayadère.  It’s the famous moment where the shades are descending the platform contraption in a linear fashion, and pause to hold an arabesque.  I believe it was ABT that did the dance scenes for the movie, and the arabesques from those ladies were a hot mess.  The whole point of the corps, and especially that scene is to have all the arabesques completely identical, creating an illusion of eternity…like if you’re standing in a mirror while holding a mirror you get that infinite tunnel effect.  But some of those ladies were either too indulgent or just went to the arabesque they knew out of habit, and what you get is the same effect that the portrait of Stephen Colbert at the Smithsonian American History Museum produces:

Note sloppy corps...

Note sloppy corps...

But corps aside, I really loved this movie.  No other ballet movie shows so many variations from the big ticket classics, while this one has the aforementioned scene from La Bayadère, the slave Ali variation from Le Corsaire, pas de deux from Sleeping Beauty, pas de deux from Romes & Jules, selected scenes from Swan Lake and Giselle (now I know why Jess had us do 685047880546 entrechat quatre on a diagonal, which seemed like torture at the time), and everyone’s favorite grand pas de deux and coda from Don Quixote.  Baryshnikov, or “Misha” as one should call him in order to appear as though they can mingle with ballet’s most knowledgeable elite, is something else.  A gracious partner, superb technique and an uncanny ability to really connect movements in a phrase rather than a series of steps.  I do think Misha likes to throw his head back just a wee bit too much (some call it expression), and I find his pirouettes to look kind of crazed and almost too tight…he doesn’t exactly make them look easy, even if he is reeling around ten of them.  He’s a little pumpkin dynamo and deserves the praise he gets, but I have a tendency to be less enamored with people who are full of themselves.  For him to be playing the skeezy, womanizing Yuri in Turning Point, and many years later to also play a stuck up, arrogant character again on Sex and the City (a show that I feel has set women back 25 years), just makes me feel like his acting had to be drawing on real experiences if you know what I’m sayin.  But I shan’t criticize further…because in the end he is an epic dancer.  I just choose to worship in the church of Acosta (who I believe is substantially taller, making his ability to move with impeccable technique even more impressive to me).

Meanwhile, I have to say that Anne Bancroft played a very convincing withering ballerina.  For someone with no dance background, she certainly picked up on how to carry herself.  11 Oscar nominations for the movie was a little much, but I dig Anne’s portrayal of Emma.  There’s a scene where she even throws a drink on DeeDee (Shirley Maclaine), which was totally improvised so you know Shirley was surprised, and what a genius moment that was.  DeeDee is an obnoxious, whiny character who is always blaming others for her problems, and Maclaine did a great job of making me dislike that character.  But back to Emma, apparently Audrey Hepburn was even offered the role, which she turned down and was quoted as saying that that was the one she regretted not doing.  Sucks to be her…or not.  Anyway, Emma was probably my favorite character, and replace her 3 Yorkshire terriers with malteses, subtract the illustrious ballet career, fabulous New York apartment, and I’m thinking that’s where I may be when I’m in my forties.  I should be so lucky, no?  But muchitos kuditos to her and Shirley…a two “Venga!s” up for the both of them!

Anyway, a definite must watch for all ballet fans, and a particularly good one for non-ballet people too, since it’s a crash course in the classics.  Leslie Browne is an adorable little baby bunny, unseasoned at the time and did well for herself as an actress too.  And how can anyone not like her as a drunken corps member in Giselle? *cough* Gelsey Kirkland *cough*  Or her ridiculous Russian/Soviet persona she assumed in the bar to get drunk in the first place?  Clearly, she and Nikolai Alexander Vladimirovicherov could have an interesting conversation or two over vodka and caviar.  Like some of my favorites from the movie:

Favorite performance:

Lucette Aldous (Australian Ballet principal dancer) as Odile in the Black Swan pas de deux.  Totally sinister and saucy.

Favorite quote:

Michael: Little Arnold’s ambivalence is showing…

Arnold: Don’t get bitchy, Michael.

Michael: I’m not referring to your sex life.

PS. Michael is loosely based on Jerome Robbins.  Stephen Sondheim once said that the 2 things Leonard Bernstein feared were God and Jerome Robbins. ::snicker::

Other favorite quote:

Emilia: What happened between you and Michael?

Emma: Oh…um, priorities.

Emilia: Oh.  He liked boys better than girls.

So brilliant, so fabulous.  And to conclude this marathon entry, I leave you with the funniest pictures I could find that had anything to do with this movie…(actually, the only pictures I could find)

Director Herbert Ross joins in on the fun.

Director Herbert Ross joins in on the fun.

Courtesy of www.sleeveface.com.   Be sure to check out their site for more hilarious sleevefacing.

Courtesy of http://www.sleeveface.com. Be sure to check out their site for more hilarious sleevefacing.

And a quick note to my readers…I see that I’ve had a reader in Brazil!  Youdancefunny has officially reached its third continent, and I feel crazy honored.  So thank you ALL for reading, and I hope my blogging efforts are entertaining for you.  Feel free to complain or slap me if they aren’t.

It’s a renversé day so MAKE PLIÉ!

6 Jul

So summer classes are normally taught by Karen Eliot (if that’s her real name) but she’s been sick so graduate student Courtney has been subbing for her.  She is a perky, delicate and gentle teacher who does a lot of barre work that is rather kind to the body.  She also had us close her eyes for one exercise to see if we could maintain our balance without using our eyes, and I’ll say it…I cheated.  I couldn’t help it!  When I was facing away from the mirror I was fine, but when facing the mirror my eyes kept peeling open.  It’s not like I even needed to, it’s just a bad habit.  The mirror and I have a special, but dirty relationship. Something else she had us do in class that I haven’t done in a while is a renversé.  Spirally, fun, indulgent…it’s a good step, but for Billy Elliot knows what reason it reminds me of those dryers with the clear doors so you can see the clothes tumbling inside…anyway, yay for renversé! (and laundry?)  She also told me she likes to watch little old me dance, because I’m very expressive…teehee!  That is literally, one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me…so thanks Courtney!

After class I chattified with her, and she told me about her time dancing with Houston Ballet, and she danced with guess who…Carlos Acosta!  She didn’t have any gossip, because she confirmed that he is indeed the nicest guy.  According to her, he’s incredibly down to earth, humble and will talk to anyone, even the janitor.  It’s probably a huge contributor to what makes him a great dancer and a generous partner.  She said when partnering with him she felt like she didn’t have to do anything, and that he has a great sense of timing, in addition to a pair of huge bear paws that I would imagine would make a dancer he was lifting feel quite secure.  It’s funny though because even with his talent, apparently he would have days where he was frustrated too and sat down one day and said something to the effect of “Oh Courtney…I think I want to do pursue music instead…”  Can you imagine?  She said she was supportive, but I told her I’d shake him silly and tell him “NOOOOOOOO!!!”  (I jest…even though that would be my knee jerk reaction, nobody believes that it’s more important to pursue your passions, regardless of how good you are at something else, more than I do!)

She also told me that he wrote a book (how did I not know this?!) so that’s a must read, after I finish Wicked.  So there you have it…he really is the nicest guy and the best dancer in the world.  Shucks.  Who wouldn’t want to be him?

Moving on, my dear friend and little treasure Svetlana also showed up to class today, and no, Svetlana is NOT her real name, but her Russian alter ego.  She developed this for a modern dance piece she was in, where she played a Russian nurse (I have no idea what the piece was like, so no questions).  Anyway, Sveta and I like to speak with Russian accents and be all Euro-ish by doing kisses on the cheeks because it makes us cool, and seeing her again reminded me of my Russian alter ego, Nikolai “Kolya” Alexander Vladimirovicherov, a cranky, old school Russian ballet teacher who will slap your wrists with a ruler and yell at you to “RELEASE BARRE!” or my personal favorite, “MAKE PLIÉ!”  He also believes that only Russians can be good ballerinas and will rename you with a Russian name because even if you aren’t Russian, having a Russian name as well as a diminutive form like Sveta or Kolya just might bring you a step closer to semi-greatness as a non-Russian.  You might be surprised what you can achieve under the tutelage of Nikolai Alexander Vladimirovicherov.  But mispronounce his name and you’ll be sorry…

So I had a really great time in class today for many reasons, although today’s “youdancefunny” moment of true patheticness happened before class when I saw this picture in the paper this morning:

Johan Santana attempts a renversé but needs to turn out his supporting leg and open the thigh of his free leg in order to maintain the integrity of the connecting line through his back and foot.

Johan Santana attempts a renversé but needs to turn out his supporting leg and open the thigh of his free leg in order to maintain the integrity of the connecting line through his back and foot.

For a split second,  I automatically thought “turn out your supporting leg” before remembering that there is no ballet in baseball (although if there were a “t” there would be! Ha…ha…).  Perhaps “balletball” could be the sport of the future.  But seriously folks, when you start seeing every movement of the human body in terms of dance, you know your life has been tainted.  If you saw “renversé” in the picture above, your eyes, like mine have been skewed in the name of dance and we shall never regain our innocence.

Meanwhile, I don’t want it anyway…HA!