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After the 1917 Revolution, many Russians fled the incoming Bolsheviks and took up residence in Europe. Some were very little girls who wanted to dance. When the original Ballets Russes, set up in 1909 by the legendary Sergei Diaghilev folded in 1930 after his death, Col. Vassili de Basil and Rene Blum launched The Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo. Spanning some 50 years, the film documents the birth of Ballets Russes, its growth and its ultimate demise. The story is told by and through the surviving members of the original corps, all in their 70s, 80s and even 90s. Woven into their stories are the roles played by the famous choreographers who worked with them, like George Balanchine and Leonid Massine.

Review by Louise Keller:
An informative, insightful glimpse into the ballet company that made an impact on the development of the dance form, Ballets Russes is a history lesson and an unforgettable close up encounter with some of its artists. You don't have to be ballet crazy to be fascinated by this lively documentary as it sweeps us into a unique world behind the ballerina smiles and tutus. With some of the artists now well into their eighties and nineties, it is easy to be inspired. Ballerinas like the immaculately groomed and flamboyantly showy 82 year old Nathalie Krassovska show they have lost none of the elegance and spirit from the days when they innovated, danced and performed in front of audiences everywhere.

I knew little about the origins of this legendary company that began in 1909, when Russian impresario Serge Diaghilev contracted a group of Russian refugees to perform in Paris. The artistry prompted an instant following as it evolved, split into two competing companies, travelled around the world embracing dance pioneers of all nationalities. The reunion of nearly 100 surviving dancers in New Orleans in 2000, was the opportunity the filmmakers were looking for, many of the dancers had not seen each other for more than half a century. 'There is a price to pay for everyone,' says Yvonne Chouteau, one of the five American Indian ballerinas who went on the road with the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo from the tender age of 14. The lifestyle was relentless for the youngsters, separated from their families, as they travelled by day by train and performed each night.

Many of the anecdotes and recollections are outright funny - like American Marc Platt, whose name was changed to Marc Platoff, in order to make him sound Russian. And the ballerina whose artistic director husband would bring an apple to dinner for his wife, the only thing she was allowed to eat, when everyone else indulged in lashings of spaghetti. We get a sense of the cat fights, the competitive elements, the harsh physicality, racial discrimination and the driving creativity. The historical facts are the glue that bind everything together, leaving us inspired.

DVD also offers a stack of deleted scenes, trailer and archival footage.

Published September 28, 2006

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(US, 2005)

CAST: Documentary featuring founding members of Ballets Russes, including Irina Baronova, Frederic Franklin, Alicia Markova, Marc Platt, Tatiana Riabouchinska, Mia Slavenska, Tatiana Sepanova, Nini Theilade, Maria Tallchief, Raven Wilkinson, George Zoritch.

NARRATION: Marian Seldes

PRODUCER: Dan Geller, Dayna Goldfine, Robert Hawk, Douglas Blair Turnbaugh

DIRECTOR: Dan Geller, Dayna Goldfine

SCRIPT: Dan Geller, Dayna Goldfine, Gary Weinberg, Celeste Shaefer Schneider


EDITOR: Dan Geller, Dayna Goldfine, Gary Weinberg

MUSIC: Todd Boekelheid, David Conte

RUNNING TIME: 118 minutes




SPECIAL FEATURES: Dancer beginnings' deleted scenes; collaborators deleted scenes; behind the velvet curtain deleted scenes; The rehearsal studio deleted scenes, trailer archival footage


DVD RELEASE: September 21, 2006

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