BALLETS RUSSES (Daniel Geller, Dayna Goldfine). 118 minutes. Opens Friday (December 9). For venues and times, see Movie Listings. Rating: NNN
Ballets Russes is an energetic and likeable history of the early 20th century's most innovative and influential ballet company.
In 1929, when ballet was dying in Europe, the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo resurrected the works of the original Ballets Russes, groundbreaking works involving talents like Nijinsky, Picasso and Stravinsky, and added an important innovation of its own.
Choreographer George Balanchine decided his prima ballerinas would be unknowns, young girls fresh from the schools, some not yet 13. The company was a huge hit and for the next 50 years enjoyed a string of successes that helped create a ballet audience in the United States.
All of this is lovingly documented with extensive archival movies and stills that feature much outstanding dance, including sequences from the company's very first season. The dancers themselves provide most of the narration and appear in interviews conducted at a reunion held in 2000.
Their memories are clear and detailed. They offer keen insights into the artistry and the personalities and politics of the company. But what shines through in every word and gesture is their love of dance. At an average age of 80, these people are still active and filled with the joy of living. Which makes this, whether you're interested in ballet or not, a very enjoyable movie.