Ballet & me


It’s ballet week for me! First, it was “Anna Karenina” put up by the National Finnish Ballet as part of the Arts Festival, and then it was the Japanese movie “Dance Subaru!”. I’ve always wished my mother enrolled me in ballet during my childhood years because I thought it’s so pretty to be able to dance. The common reason I was given then was that I will end up with thunder thighs and calves when I stop dancing. I guess looking at some real-life examples, it seems true to some extent, but it still hasn’t prevented me from wishing.

Now that I’m in my adult years, learning ballet would require time commitment, which I am unable to fork out, so I guess I’ll have to contend with living out my childhood dream through the ballet put up by the professionals.

Ticket to Arts Fest "Anna Karenina"

Ticket to Arts Fest "Anna Karenina"

The tragic Russian love story based on the novel written by Leo Tolstoy.

The tragic Russian love story based on the novel written by Leo Tolstoy.

I’ve never watched a ballet performance before so I may not understand the choreography and jargon for ballet. Because I am familiar with the story, I pretty much could understand what is going on. With no dialogue, a lot is deduced from the body language of the dancers, and the emotions on their faces.

I had my first encounter with “Anna Karenina” when I was in secondary school, (if my memory didn’t fail me). We were watching this movie in class for some reason, and I found it quite fascinating, even though I couldn’t quite understand the nuances totally at that time. Then I came across the book and bought it because I was familiar with the name, but it was a thick book and very difficult to read because the language was translated from Russian and it was weird. It took me several years to finally finish it. To put it simply, the story is about a married woman who was torn between two men in a time and place where the morals and societal boundaries were firmly in place. In defending her right to love, she is forced to give up her position in society and her son. After which, she grew increasingly paranoid that the the man she chose and loved was no longer attracted to her the way he was before. The culmination of incidents left her in a state of confusion and saw her ending her life tragically.

To present such an emotionally nuanced story through ballet didn’t quite work for me that night. Don’t get me wrong, the dance was brilliant, but it simply wasn’t the best way to tell the story. Petia Ilieva played Anna and she danced beautifully, but it was hard to feel the complexity of the emotional struggle through someone so distant (even though I was fifth row from the front). For someone who might not have read the book or watched the movie, the choreography does give the audience an idea of the dynamics of her relationship with the men. When Anna was romancing Count Vronsky (performed by Nicholas Ziegler), both Illieva and Ziegler would wrap around each other effortlessly, moving like a single body, limbs displayed in long, languid movements. When it came to Anna and her husband, Illieva still moved with much grace and fluidity, but such moments were short and often interrupted by her struggle to get away.

The tragic ending didn’t have as much impact as it does on film, but the solo sequence by Illieva was tormenting and made believable the need to end her life the way she did.

DVD of the movie that I watched many years ago when I was a student.

DVD of the movie that I watched many years ago when I was a student.

There was a table outside the theatre that was encouraging members of the public to be premium members of the National Library Board with a promotion of being able to borrow unlimited DVDs for a 2 week period, extended also to existing members. I signed up on the spot and borrowed 5 titles, with the original “Anna Karenina” I watched many years ago amongst the pile! I hope to share my reviews on them soon.

The movie Dance Subaru! currently showing at Cathay.

The movie Dance Subaru! currently showing at Cathay.

Dance Subaru! on the other hand was a little disappointing.The predictable plot of a young girl who had a passion for dancing, yet was unable to receive proper training due to familial objections, motivated by the common dream shared with a loved one who did not live long enough to see the dream fulfilled and finally going against all odds to realise her dream would be forgivable, if there was more dancing. Good dancing that is. DBSK made a cameo appearance, which fell flat because it did nothing to move the story along. The female lead Meisa Kuroki who plays Subaru is pretty but perhaps a little too cool to interest me beyond Act 2. The girl who played young Subaru was more interesting to watch, and danced better too. Sure, Subaru is an arrogant rebel but to share the same dream of ballet with her mother and brother, both of whom she lost to the same type of cancer at a young age and then growing up in a cabaret, where ballet dancers perform strip tease, I would think there would be more underneath that steely exterior that drives the need for her to prove herself and achieve her dream.

However, the lessons in this movie are valuable. It teaches perseverance and emphasises the need for performers to achieve a clear state of mind that is highly charged for optimal performance; the importance of being consciously aware of the people and emotions around us (i.e. message in the air) and keep your friends close but your enemies closer. Unfortunately, the story which is primarily character driven needs someone with dance steps to wow if their goal was to make an impressive Asian dance movie. After a while, it began to feel a little contrived to hear the rest of the cast complimenting Subaru for her great dancing when there wasn’t much to see. What she lacked in the technical department, she was supposed to make up for it emotionally, but lest for the last act, the rest were just too bland for my liking.

But don’t take my word for it, watch it and tell me what you think. 🙂

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29 responses to “Ballet & me

  1. I thought Dance Subaru! was fantastic. The plot/scripting was beyond words compared to many other movies and the cast was really good! (: It got me crying for a little because the ending was really touching but it was a pity TVXQ/DBSK made a 15 second appearance which was pretty of no use. I expected at least one of them to play Toshio Kakei’s role ):

    Sorry my english is not very good because I just migrated from Korea 1.5 years ago. I’m trying! ^^

    Got to know you when my friend from Singapore introduced me to Beach.Ball.Babes which is currently airing. Love your acting 🙂

  2. Hope you enjoy it. 🙂

  3. I learn ballet B4 . Not shy to sae that I gave up in the end ..
    Lols .. I know I 半途而废 but in the end I lost then interest in it ..
    :X
    Yess ! I’m the first one to comment !
    Buaiix .. Lols!

  4. P.S. I wrote sumthing wrong ..
    Error : Lols .. I know I 半途而废 but in the end I lost THEN interest in it .. :X
    Correct : Lols .. I know I 半途而废 but in the end I lost THE interest in it .. :X
    ERROR : CAPITAL LETTER
    😛

  5. Hi Joanne,

    I like your writing, very thoroughful.
    Reading your blog, increase my vocabulary & I think my english has improve a little.
    Thank you for ur effort to share this with us…

    Support u always….

  6. Hi Joanne,

    I like the “Anna Karenina”. Her dancing is very wonderful. Joanne, I wished i could go there and watch them performing. If i have chance, I will go down to the video shop and ask for the video. I really can’t wait to watch the video’s of the “Anna Karenina”. She was amazing! For Subaru, I really do pity her. She was too young to suffer from a illness of cancer. Same to me that I also wished that she could achieve her dream! I feel sad for Subaru:( . Did you know how to dance ballet well? Don’t know why i wished to see you dancing. Haha:D The ticket is too expensive. But the performance is worth to watch. Who do you go and watch the performances with? Is the story book still available in Popular or any other book stores? I get very suprised to read the book. But you say that it’s thick and some of the words you didn’t understand well. Is the word really very hard to understand? Next time i will go and watch the performances when there is. Could you tell me how you know that there’s a performances of “Anna Karenina” and “Dance Subaru”? Joanne, thanks very much to you by sharing those story from you and those ballet to all of us. I really aprreciate it! 😀 Thanks! Btw, those photo’s you put on your post is really very nice. Ecspecially the photo’s of “Anna Karenina” :D!

  7. Sorry type wrong on line7.
    * Did you dance well in ballet?*

  8. hi ! i think the ballet cinema show should b nice!

  9. 嗨,薇秀!
    请问 singapore art festival 在哪里举行?

  10. Oh? I always thought you have a ballet background. If I’m not mistaken, there was a drama, “The Miracle” where you acted with Fann Wong which you required to dance. I found it was natural. Anyway, there is always no age or time limit in learning rite? Wish your dreams come true someday!!

  11. Hi Joanne,

    I caught Anna Karenina on Friday and Dance, Subaru! today.
    As a dancer, my friends and i are usually more interested in watching ballets for their technique and not the story line (haha!). Anna was ok, but probably a bit too abstract for my liking.
    I agree with you on Subaru though… story was bland and Subaru wasn’t the best dancer of the lot. The younger Subaru on the other hand was impressive, being able to execute such lovely extensions and doing grande jete en tournants at that age? Wow!
    If you want to watch a good ballet movie, i recommend ‘Centrestage’… good storyline, realistic portrayal of what dancers go through during training and gorgeous technique.

    Cheers

  12. Hmm subaru..tvxq..probably just a selling point to make the movie more popular among the fans? Haha, but the movie itself..haven’t watch it.

    Anyway Gambette!

  13. Nice review, Joanne!:D
    I watched ‘Subaru’ too! and yea, it was a predictable plot…T_T It made me interested to read the original manga.hee:)

    From what I know, there was an audition with thousands of dancers/actresses fighting for Subaru’s role, but Kuroki Meisa (who wasn’t auditioned) was selected in the end, eventhough she didn’t have any background for ballet.
    This is the link for the audition announcement released to the public in 2005. It’s in Japanese though…>>http://www.avex.jp/subaru/index.html

    The executive producer & director couldn’t find the right actress for the role even after the audition, however, they saw Meisa in the film ‘Azumi’, and felt she was the best fit for Subaru.
    It’s really hard to be able to dance lika a ‘professional’ ballerina within a few months- and for that Meisa did a good job. She practiced really hard everyday , and she managed to go on pointe in just half a year. Hmm, but I would have preferred a professional dancer tho…Meisa is pretty and charismatic, but she wasn’t able to showcase her dance as a ‘talented’ ballet dancer, Subaru. Oh well..:S

  14. Lol .. I see wrong I not first to comment ..
    T_T
    … …-_-”

  15. hey joanne (:
    i was wanting to watch “dance, subaru” after having caught angels & demons which made me really looking forward to good movies.
    however, your review sounded kind of disappointed. i shall go watch it anyways, hope it will be at least a little enlightening.
    haha, and yea. glad bout the DBSK appearance though it might not be of any help to the plot :p
    how come the programme with daiyangtian didnt show on friday ): was kinda sad it didnt.
    anyway, do put up more movie or show reviews as we definitely do pay attention to your opinions (:
    jiayou (:

  16. Actually, a fit ballet dancer will not have big thigh. Instead they will have nice lean thigh.. example like wong lin ling and jeanette aw.. they dun have big thigh too.. and actually alot successful ballet dancer dun have too. Hmm.. i hope everyone will not have this misconception.

  17. hi joanne, whenever i watch an english movie one of the problems occur me is tt i dun tend to remember the names of the character, is like walking into a room full of new colleagues, therefore if someone ask me what state of play is all abt, i can oli say its abt a politician indirectly assassin his subordinate. 😦

  18. Hi joanne,do you know what’s th difference between school and life?Make a guess(:

  19. hi joanne do u dance ballet?

  20. Well, hope u enjoy it!

    Support u oways!! ^^

  21. 虽然我没有看过,但是慢想看的。。。

  22. Hi Joanne,

    Are you on a long leave before continue filming for the long drama in September? What are you gonna do between this period?

  23. Hi Joanne, haven’t been visiting your blog for quite sometime due to school stuffs. You really like movies with alot of meaning and depth, don’t you! (: Just wondering, have you ever watched “Life Is Beautiful” before?
    This movie depicts the story of a poor Jewish waiter marrying a rich lady in the 1940s and later on they have a son. On their son’s sixth birthday his dad brings him to the train station for a train ride, only to find that they were brought by the German officers to the train that brought them to Auschwitz. When his wife (who’s not Jewish) finds out that they’re being brought to the concentration camp, she hops onto the train, desperate to be with her husband. In the camp, he finds many ways to express his love for her even though they were not allowed to meet. He would play her favourite song on the player and even went as far as to shout “I love you, Dora” through the mic that was used for making announcements by the German officer. When he heard that the ladies were going to be sent to another camp, he disguises as a woman and tries to enter the ladies bunk but is shot to death by a German officer.
    This movie depicts family love and sacrificial love that I find is touching and empowering, and I think you should also watch it too (:

  24. I wanted to watch Dance Subaru too! will catch it this thursday maybe, haha. 😀

  25. just wanna share with u a joke n maybe u have heard b4, a man in china purchase a cd, he went home n try it but couldnt play , he look at the back of the cover says guarantee no spolit , so he went back to the seller n the seller say : here in china we read words from the right side, so tt says “spolit no guarantee” Haha juz a old joke i guess.thanks.

  26. Helo Joanne, its been sometime not talkin to u n wat u lately bz with weather bad drink lots, lots of water k must take care leh always suppportive bb

  27. Geez , i think that although DBSK came out for just a few seconds , aren’t that part really very nicee ?
    and before that , they already mention they didn’t have any lines but only performing up there as to enhance subaru’s dancing .

    so i don’t think there’s any need of flow to it .

  28. The ballet portrayal of Anna Karenina didn’t work for me either, even though it was technically of a very very high quality. I fully agree that there were so many nuances that the dance failed to bring out, and I found it a rather soul-less and disappointing performance, especially when the story had promised so much! Do you think contemporary dance would have been a better dance medium?

    I’m not sure if you managed to catch other performances at the Arts Fest, but I quite liked “Etiquette” though.

  29. hihi..

    seems like you’re into movies and books.. Anna Karenina was written by Leo Tolstoy… I thought the performance didnt really do him justice.. but was good enough for a complete show so to speak.. do check out his other Novel ‘War & Peace’… it’s one of his best written ever..

    and i do agree translation of Russian to English is generally incorrect.. thus. its certainly difficult to understand..

    cheers!!

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