A Ballerina's Tale focuses on is Misty Copeland, a young woman who
began her career at 13, a late start in the art form, and even in the
modern age, faced great prejudice. Not in a similar fashion to her
predecessors, like the visibly seen Raven Wilkinson, but between being
a Black woman, as well as not fitting into George Balanchine's vision
of the perfect ballerina, a lot of her professional career was an
Of which, largely remains unseen. Which isn't to say Copeland's struggles aren't documented, but more so title cards provide you details than imagery of the blood, sweat, and tears which come from dance practice or her having what could have been a career-ending surgery. Nonetheless, in this overview of Copeland's career, you learn about her, her profession, and though she is being touted as the first Black women in many areas of ballet, the film makes sure to pay homage, and have predecessors seen, so that anyone watching will see there is a community, and Copeland isn't just an exception.
Though I have gone to ballets before, and likely will again in the future, I am not someone who knows all the technical terms, nor the history. Within A Ballerina's Tale, however, a basic overview, or rather foundation, is given so that you are made aware just enough without being overwhelmed.
I liked that while Misty was given the title "The First Black " she made it a point to not make it all about her. She has her title, but wants to make sure you know who Raven Wilkinson is, wants you to be familiar with the other people who, even if they don't get the credit, did pave the way so that Misty didn't have the full-on loneliness which comes from being the first non-white person in an industry.
Within the film it features multiple instances of her performances caught on film, which I enjoyed since we see her practice so much, even post-surgery. So to see how much talent, focus, and drive she has really pushed multiple ideas. The main one being: ballet is no joke. For whether you are physically seeing, through an X-ray, the damage it did on Copeland's body, hearing what many would consider horror stories, and Copeland pushing the idea her pain tolerance is almost superhuman, to not leave the film respecting the madness and love these performers have, I think would be impossible.
Lastly, I have to say I loved the film directly addressing race, and showing Black women having comradery. For among the representation Copeland brings to ballet, I also believe that the film brings the idea that just as she shouldn't be alone on stage, no Black person, or person of color in general, should feel they will be alone in the audience. For while, as one of her supporters note, there perhaps aren't a lot of men interested in the art form, that is changing.
Being that we are told Copeland is one of 6, I did find it odd that we don't see any member of her family throughout the movie. For while I do feel we get a strong introduction to her professional life, her personal life is almost completely absent. Which I'm sure may be welcomed by those who may care only about her career, but it leaves the film fractured. To put it another way, it has a Beyoncé documentary style. Something in which everything is tightly controlled and manufactured for consumption, to the point nothing seems real or raw. You see what you are meant to see and hear what you are meant to hear, and nothing which doesn't imply perfection, and the most marketable person around will get to you without someone breaking Copeland's trust.
On The Fence
With the large amount of people introduced, I did wish that the name cards would have appeared more than once. For while I latched onto who her manager was, there were other names in there which I thought would have just had one segment and never be seen again, and when they popped up later in the film I struggled to remember who they were.
Overall: Worth Seeing
Let me start off by admitting that this isn't like the majority of the films placed within the "Worth Seeing" label. For one, this isn't something I think is of universal interest, nor is it on the level for a non-ballet fan to suddenly take an interest. For while Copeland is charismatic, and surely this documentary will make for a good foundation in case her life is even dramatized, there remains this feeling that it belongs in a niche. Likely because, between the topic of ballet, as well as Black women in the medium, it seems finely focused. To the point, the film acts as more of a presentation on representation than us truly getting to know Copeland, those who came before her, or even those who supported her. For, as stated, with the absence of her family, and more so people speaking about her than with her throughout the movie, there is a bit of disconnect when it comes to this being about Copeland. Though, I would argue, while this film disappoints in truly getting to know Copeland past her smiling façade, at the very least if you know a young Black child, or a young girl of color, who is interested in the art form, at the very least the film lets her know she isn't alone, and the possibilities are endless.
A Ballerina's Tale
Action / Documentary
A Ballerina's Tale
Action / Documentary
A feature documentary on African American ballerina Misty Copeland that examines her prodigious rise, her potentially career ending injury alongside themes of race and body image in the elite ballet world.
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February 05, 2016 at 02:36 AM