A LIFE FOR BALLET
Spanning the years 1954 to 2010, this documentary follows the careers of famed dancer and choreographer, Pierre Lacotte and his wife and muse, prima ballerina Ghislaine Thesmar. Laconte trained under the instruction of many legendary figures such as Lioubov Egorova, former prima ballerina of St Petersburg's Theatre Mariinsky. Her influence would inform his style for many years to come, helping him create a link to the past via many ballets that were thought to be long lost. In turn, Ghislaine Thesmar was a gifted dancer with a breathtaking aptitude for dramatic performance, which served as an inspiration for her husband's creativity. The film includes rarely seen archival footage featuring fellow artists such as Rudolf Nureyev, Agnès Letestu, Michael Denard, Evgenia Obratsova and Svetlana Zakharova.
Review by Louise Keller:
Watching A Life For Ballet is a meditative experience; it's easy to become mesmerized by the grace, elegance and expression of dance through the lives and careers of acclaimed French dancer/choreographer Pierre Lacotte and his prima ballerina wife and muse Ghislaine Thesmar. While this stylish documentary contains extraordinary archival footage of ballet superstars including Rudolf Nureyev, Evgenia Obratsova and Svetlana Zakharova, there is also an intrinsically personal element through Lacotte and Thesmar's presence, having spent a lifetime together, inspiring and encouraging each other in their artistic pursuits.
Footage of Lacotte and Thesmar in their younger days shows them as a striking, beautiful couple: he is dark and handsome, she is feminine and lovely. Something magical happens when they dance together on stage. He met her when she was 19, attracted by her talent and beauty. She thought it was destiny. He formed his own company which she joined and together they embarked on creative adventures. Music fascinated Lacotte as a 7 year old child recovering from pneumonia, and when he was taken to the Paris Opera to see the ballet Giselle, he discovered that through ballet, he was able to sing with his body. He immediately knew what he wanted to do for the rest of his life.
Ballet aficionados will be fascinated by the unfolding of both their careers, the influence of Lubov Egorova and working with the likes of Charles Aznavour, Michel LeGrand and Edith Piaf, who Lacotte met in New York. It was his project about a young worker who could not find happiness, but was guided by a mysterious voice at night, that sparked her curiosity. Why not my voice, asked Piaf? Although Piaf was ill, she recorded the songs and after her death as an homage, Lacotte made a film about the ballet La Voix. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up as I watched the black and white footage, when dancers respond as if in a trance, when they hear the unmistakable voice of Piaf off-screen.
Many of the candid interviews take place at Lacotte and Thesmar's beautiful home - where manicured lawns, ponds, swans, roses and conservatories complement the couple's obvious inner peace and frame of mind. Beauty surrounds them everywhere and Lacotte talks about the importance of a house as a refuge - where one can come to terms with oneself. Footage of excerpts from their careers is interspersed through the film, including extensive scenes from many ballets all over the world; Septuor, The Butterfly, Coppelia, Swan Lake, Pharaoh's Daughter and The Merry Widow. Thesmar, with her distinctive beauty mark below the left eye, is the epitome of gracefulness. Light as a feather, she is supple and perfectly balanced with limbs that stretch like elastic bands. Considered a contemporary dancer as opposed to a classical one, she explains how she has lived and breathed each role as it came along.
Lacotte's recreation of La Sylphide in which Thesmar starred is the trigger that set both their careers soaring. I was especially interested to watch Nureyev in the ballet sequences with Thesmar; his on-stage charisma fills the stage. Lacotte and Thesmar may not have children of their own, but Lacotte says affectionately he really does have children - on stage at the Paris Opera Ballet, where his love for dance began. An unforgettable feast of ballet.
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A LIFE FOR BALLET (PG)
Une vie de ballets
CAST: Documentary featuring Pierre Lacotte, Ghislaine Thesmar
PRODUCER: Marlène Ionesco, Loic Magneron
DIRECTOR: Marlène Ionesco
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Elizabeth Prouvost
PRODUCTION DESIGN: n/a
RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: IFM Film
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Melbourne: April 19; Adelaide & Wagga Wagga, NSW, May 5, 2012