Dance Movie Spotlight

Every dancer has their favorite dance film— the one they grew up with, danced with, dreamed with. For me, that magical film of dreams was The Children of Theater Street, a 1977 American documentary about the Kirov Ballet School, in St. Petersburg, Russia directed by Robert Dornhelm and narrated by the legendary Princess Grace (Grace Kelly) of Monaco.

From the basement of my home in small town New England, I soaked up every detail, mimicking articulated hands, stretching, and pirouetting as I watched, captivated by the beauty, grace and nuance the dancers embodied. I shaped my own dreams as the young, aspiring dancers lived theirs on the silver screen.

Every year, Russian children make the journey with their parents to the imperial city, to try for a coveted spot at the Kirov Ballet School which has produced some of the finest ballet luminaries in history; Anna Pavlova, George Balanchine, Rudolph Nureyev and Vaslav Nijinsky among them.  The film lets us peer into a highly disciplined world of pure art where expectations are high, and the weight of tradition feels almost oppressive. With Grace Kelly's warm, vivid narration providing the context and translations, we watch as a mere 20 students out of thousands are carefully selected according to predetermined physical requirements and go on to spend close to a decade mastering their ballet skills. You can't help feeling anxious for these young dancers and then excitement as you watch graduating students make their defining debuts on the Kirov stage after months of rigorous, intense practice.

 “Street” is real life, examined in minute detail, at times joyful and almost euphoric, and at others, troubling and sad. Many of the children don’t see their parents for months or even years at a time. Sacrifice is a deep part of this experience. The film is both a touching and heart wrenching behind-the-scenes look at greatness in the making.

“Euphoria— the chance to dance, the chance to fly! There’s a deep inner glow at the core of every dancer. There’s a joy in the simple beauty in the simple beauty of movement.”

                                                                                -Grace Kelly, The Children of Theater Street


What’s your favorite dance film? Let us know in the comments!

April 13, 2024

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