Saturday, May 26, 2018

Walt Disney's Ballerina ( 1966 )

"When you no longer have the ballet, what have you?"

Ballerina Mette Hønningen stars as Mette Sorensen, a young woman who spent years training to become a ballerina for the Royal Danish Ballet only to find her sparkling dream tarnished by her mother's desire to have her quit ballet, wed boyfriend Sven, and raise a family. Her mother ( Astrid Villaume ) simply wants Mette to enjoy her youth like other girls her age instead of spending hours constantly in ballet training. But she fails to realize that for Mette, ballet is her enjoyment. It is her life. 

Mette's father ( Poul Reichhardt ), a musician, supports her in her dream, as does Mette's idol, the famous ballerina Kirsten Holm ( Kirsten Simone ). Kirsten sees great potential in Mette and is saddened to see her despondent and slacking in her training. In fear of losing this talented pupil she convinces the director of the ballet company to give Mette a solo performance in the company's upcoming production of "Swan Lake" by making a typical prima-donna demand:

"I might dance Swan Lake next week....or I might not. I'm very tired from my recent tour. If I dance Swan Lake, so will Mette Sorensen."

The mentorship and encouragement that Kirsten gives her, helps Mette to convince her mother that the beauty of ballet danced to perfection - no matter how difficult the work involved - is worth the effort. Mette, in turn, also offers little Ingrid ( Jenny Agutter ), one of the star-struck students at the ballet, the same encouragement and support that she received in order to help Ingrid becoming a better dancer. 
Shortly after Walt Disney Studios entered television in the mid-1950s with the Disneyland series, the studio began producing full-length made-for-television movies. The Wonderful World of Color offered an excellent opportunity for up-and-coming directors to learn the ropes before they progressed to feature films and also provided the studio with a training ground for actors. 

Many of the films made for television covered a wide variety of topics that may have had minimal box-office appeal and would not have been worth producing had they been released directly in theatres. Almost Angels ( showcasing the Vienna Boys Choir ), The Magnificent Rebel ( the life of Ludwig Beethoven ), The Tattooed Police Horse ( harness racing ) and Ballerina ( the Royal Danish Ballet ), are just some of these films. 
Ballerina is a particularly entertaining picture and one of the rare films to focus entirely on ballet. It is also unusual in that it features actual ballet artists from the Royal Danish Ballet in the lead parts. Because of this, their acting is not up to par with theatre-trained actors, but it is quite good considering they are primarily dancers who are accustomed to acting without the use of their voice. 

The storyline is engaging and Ballerina features quite a number of excellent ballet dance sequences from Coppelia, a lovely Scottish number ( which I don't know the name to ) and naturally, the famous Swan Lake. Henning Kronstam of the Royal Danish Ballet is also given a large role as one of the principal dancers. 
Ballerina was filmed on location in Denmark. In one scene, the audience is given a tour of the beautiful Tivoli Gardens which was the park that inspired Walt Disney to create Disneyland. 

Unfortunately, Ballerina is not yet available on DVD or online for streaming...but some kindly soul has posted a VHS transfer of the film on Youtube which can be viewed here. 

4 comments:

  1. This sounds like a movie I would very much enjoy...and I can see it for free! Although I lack a true appreciation of live ballet, I like films with ballet settings (go figure). Plus, I have a soft for Disney movies of the 1950s and 1960s. Finally, I'm a Jenny Agutter fan (it's interesting that CALL THE MIDWIFE has made her a TV star in the twilight of a fine career).

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    1. I was surprised to see Jenny Agutter in the cast list for this film, too, and it appears she was chosen because she was a student of ballet at the time. If you watch Ballerina, I hope you enjoy it!

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  2. I don't remember Ballerina, but certainly recall the other titles you mentioned. It sounds worthwhile as my memories of the other films are all pleasant.

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    1. I think this title was buried among the others because it lacked any big-name actors in the credits ( of course, they are famous ballerinas but how many average people know that? ). It's very enjoyable though, so I hope you get a chance to watch it, CW. All the Disney films are great.

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