Tag Archive: black swan

Seven months have passed since the movie “Black Swan” first rocked the dance world with a hotly disputed and much talked-about portrayal of the tradition of classical ballet. Amazingly, people are still talking about it.

I found this story from the Wall Street Journal and appreciated the recap of events that have transpired since the controversial film’s release. Questions of body doubles and ballet training for Natalie Portman have largely come out and the hindsight is interesting, to say the least. A preview of five fabulous ballet companies that will be taking a certain American city by storm this season is included in the story.

For more commentary on “Black Swan,” take a look at the links below.

“Natalie Portman Embraces Monster and Victim”: an awards-season rehashing of Portman’s role in the film. Find the story from the New York Times here.

Check out an interview from New York Magazine with the “Black Swan” choreographer on instructing Portman on her bird-ish port de bras.

See the film from the director’s perspective in this interview with director Darren Aronofsky from MTV.com.


For anyone else out there who emboites in the other direction at the first sign of sports equipment projectiles, don’t worry: March still brings plenty to celebrate, er, madly. The Academy Awards, which took place over the weekend, celebrated the nomination of “Black Swan” for several categories, including best picture. Natalie Portman, psychotic ballerina extraordinaire, snagged the statuette for best actress through her role in the film and, thankfully, showed no signs of sprouting wings.

On an entirely unrelated but similarly excellent note, a new kind of game is coming to Las Vegas, and it’s beginning with a bang tonight. Nomi Malone and Miss Miranda Glamour will be hosting “Burlesque: the Game Show” at FREEZONE, a couple blocks south of Hard Rock Hotel. Renea’ Le Roux and Lou-Lou Roxy will be making guest appearances and ladies can get discounts on drinks from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. For a night of burlesque and unpredictability, hit up FREEZONE at 610 E. Naples Drive at 10:30 p.m.

For the more classic at heart, Nevada Ballet Theatre will be performing “The Tried and True and the New” at 8 p.m. on March 4, 5 and 6 at UNLV’s Artemus W. Ham Concert Hall. Guest artists from Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater will make an appearance and choreography by George Balanchine, James Canfield and Matthew Neenan will be featured. Tickets are selling quickly, so head over here to buy yours.

For those of you that can’t bear the thought of an entirely sports-bereft March, Face Productions is organizing a show on Fremont Street that should be a good compromise. The month-long production features sassy performers with pom-pom expertise and vixens dancing to Beyonce tracks, both appropriate for the ultimate halftime show experience.

Do you know of any mad events going on that should be featured here? Leave a comment below and let me know. Otherwise, get some pep in your step and gear up for a month full of burlesque, ballet and, if you insist, basketball.

After enduring a pretty thorough snubbing by many movie reviewers over the past several weeks, “Black Swan” is distancing itself from some incredible misunderstandings. It isn’t “Center Stage,” and it also isn’t the real dance world, if that’s what you’re wondering. If it had to be classified under one genre, “horror” or “psychological thriller” just might do the trick. After all, who wants to look in the mirror of a rehearsal studio and see their reflection doing something else?

When it comes down to it, “Black Swan” personifies paradox to the utmost and is a deliberately and deliciously creepy portrayal of art, illusion and Lincoln Center. At its most fundamental level, the film could be taken as the universal struggle between two opposing forces, as the “Swan Lake” plot obviously dictates. More subtly, though, the film explores the fine line between art and technique, fantasy and reality and, most prominently, freak-show megadrama and what the dance world is really like.

Aronofsky seems to have a predilection for bloody feet, cracking joints and the dramatized mutilation of pointe shoes and young women. However, Natalie Portman as the tormented ballerina Nina Sayers salvages this exaggeration beautifully, portraying the incredible struggle between perfection and carnal instinct unflinchingly and saving the movie from two-dimensional, soap-opera campiness by extension. (For more of this camp-oriented discussion, see Dennis Lim’s review on Slate.com.)

For dancers, “Black Swan” offers up some additional pleasures. Broken toenails and blistered feet from pointe shoes? Been there, done that, as have many bunheads in the audience. However, being afforded a zoomed-in, slowed-down view of the mechanics of a pointe-shoed foot during fouette turns is pretty awesome. Another interesting trick comes during a turn sequence, when the camera is whipped around, then focused on a still point, mimicking a dancer spotting turns. It’s fun to see these simple bits of a dancer’s existence blown up and glorified on the silver screen, even if I can’t pull a feather from my shoulder blade or sprout wings during “Swan Lake” variations.

Much like the ballet, “Black Swan” demands a certain suspension of reality in exchange for the telling of a story. The first mistake of an audience would be to take the film too literally, although the premise of the movie is simple enough. An unidentified company, facing financial problems and dwindling attendance, has “Swan Lake” slated for the season’s performances. Nina, a soloist in the company, is chosen for the role of Swan Queen, allowing Portman to explore the extreme duality of the dichotomous character. Some of the most interesting casting is less obvious, though. Director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) holds incredible sway over Nina as both the prince and the sorcerer. Beth Macintyre (Winona Ryder) dances her last season with the company and personifies the Dying Swan from the original ballet. Lily (Mila Kunis) doubles as Nina’s evil alternate (come on, we all have one) and the Black Swan, sauntering around with her hair down while Nina collapses in tears.

Nina’s dysfunctional relationship with both Thomas and her overprotective mother exemplifies the vulnerability inherent in the White Swan and gives Portman the opportunity to do that lovely thing she does, inviting the audience into her mind with the mental breakdowns and tendon-straining tension of her character.

Portman should be absolutely commended for this, because without her pertinacious embrace of the some of the more ridiculous facets of this movie, the swan flick wouldn’t fly. It’s extreme, it’s creepy, and, like walking down a long hallway with a stranger at the other end, it makes you want to reach for your phone or find something to laugh at. (I did actually laugh at the fantastically pedestrian “Hey” uttered by the beaked-and-winged sorcerer in the final scene.) Watching Portman delve expertly into the challenge of balancing the pristine, virginal White Swan with the seductive, demanding and dangerous Black, is a huge part of the appeal of “Black Swan.”

Mind-games and sometimes gratuitous sex scenes (between Nina and Thomas, Nina alone, Nina and Lily, Lily and Thomas … ) aside, “Black Swan” might end up being as well-watched as other classic dance flicks, although perhaps without the candy coating of some. A big potential drawback of the film is non-dancers walking away with the idea that this is how the dance world really works, invasive directors and daily meltdowns included. Hopefully the overly dramatic nature is obvious and taken with a grain of salt and the movie is enjoyed for the beautifully overblown endeavor that it is.

Interested in reading more about tortured ballerinas? Check out the New York Times’ review of the movie here. For a hilarious and utterly fabulous flow-chart about the movie, see an article on Slate.com here.