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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Examination Into The Workings of a Great Ballet Organization.
I own, at last count, more then a dozen DVDs concerning the lives and arts of choreographers and the objects and subjects of their arts: the ballerinas and their male counterparts. Ballet, and in my case, too, opera, are addictive arts. You can never stop with one recording of Giselle, or one of Carmen. You soon become an addict. Great for two art forms that are...
Published on May 14, 2011 by King Arthur

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15 of 24 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Very Disappointed
This DVD leaves a great deal to be desired, both cinematically and choreographically. To my eye, it fails in both categories and I am puzzled as to why many reviewers give it high marks.

I think it safe to say that the Paris Opera Ballet hasn't been a world-class company for many decades. It's not in the same league as the Bolshoi, the Mariinski, the Royal...
Published on October 19, 2011 by Gordon Ackerman


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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Examination Into The Workings of a Great Ballet Organization., May 14, 2011
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This review is from: La Danse- Le Ballet de l'Opéra de Paris By Frederick Wiseman (Region 1, North America - Original French w/ English Subtitles) (DVD)
I own, at last count, more then a dozen DVDs concerning the lives and arts of choreographers and the objects and subjects of their arts: the ballerinas and their male counterparts. Ballet, and in my case, too, opera, are addictive arts. You can never stop with one recording of Giselle, or one of Carmen. You soon become an addict. Great for two art forms that are supposed to be dying. All this by way of introduction to my review of the newest addition to my library of films concerning the real world behind the make believe world of ballet.

La Danse is a documentary about Le Ballet De L'Opera De Paria. by the acclaimed film maker Frederick Wiseman. Mr. Wiseman gives the viewer broad insight into the workings of this renowned ballet company. The primary objects of Mr. Wiseman's cameras are of course, the dancers and the choreographers. In the course of this examination we ss snippets of ballets, old and new such as Paquita, Medea and Genius, and the artists in rehearsal, and the choreographers in discussion with the Director of Dance, Brigitte Lefevre. Ms. Lefevre, a beautiful, and intelligent woman, controls the operations of the ballet, at all its levels: on stage and in the rehearsal halls, set construction, financial and promotional aspects, even discussions with artists concerning their futures after they cease dancing. Mr. Wiseman studies all these aspects of creation with a camera which does not get in the way. In one sequence there is a conversation between Aurelie Dupont, an Etoile with many years distinction, with Ms. Lefevre, indicating that her age is becoming an impediment to her performance in certain roles. (In the DVD of Paquita by the Paris Opera Ballet, a ballet I consider to be my favorite of all ballets), Ms. Lefevre discusses the performance life of ballet artistes. They are required to retire at age forty, but with a handsome retirement package.)

La Danse is a two DVD set. There is a lot of ballet life in it. Yet I felt it was a little thin in looking into the lives of the danseues and danceurs, the hardworking, sweaty, beautiful women, and handsome men, whose physical actions, aches and pains, and emotional miming, create the ballets we love. For this reason, an important one, I was tempted to give this DVD 4 Stars. Fortunately, I don't always succumb to temptation. Hence 5 Stars. I suggest the reader of this review might find that the following three DVDs will fill the void I found in Mr. Wiseman's otherwise masterful Work: Ballerina: A portrait of five Kirov Ballerinas, among them Svetlana Sakharova; Etoiles, a Film by Nils Tavernier about the Dancers of the Paris Opera Ballet, and The Dancer, a film by Donya Feuer, featuring Katja Bjoerner of the Royal Swedish Ballet School. King Arthur, Arthur Stanley Katz, May 14, 2011
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Breathtaking, February 25, 2011
This review is from: La Danse- Le Ballet de l'Opéra de Paris By Frederick Wiseman (Region 1, North America - Original French w/ English Subtitles) (DVD)
This is absolutely one of the best documentaries I have ever seen. Although the film stretched for over two hours, I was still disappointed when it ended. If you are a dance enthusiast, you will be especially interested in the film as it shows ordinary practice days as well as snippets of performance. It also peeks into the business side of ballet and how the greatest company in the world views itself (predictably, and a little snobbishly even if it is true, as the greatest company in the world). The precision of the dancers is really incredible, and for anyone even mildly interested in ballet, I think this should be a must-see.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Watching all those rehearsals... fascinating, August 16, 2011
By 
Cherry Radford (Brighton, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: La Danse- Le Ballet de l'Opéra de Paris By Frederick Wiseman (Region 1, North America - Original French w/ English Subtitles) (DVD)
An extraordinary fly-on-the-wall view of what goes on at the Paris Opera Ballet. But having at last managed to commandeer the family telly to watch this, I was a bit irritated with the amount of padding in this long documentary: numerous shots of sun going up/down over the rooftops of Paris, a man picking up rubbish between the theatre seats, a man hoovering between the theatre seats, a sewer underneath the theatre, something swimming in the sewer underneath the theatre...
Also, the lack of any narration meant you had to wait for the credits at the end before you could put a name to some of the ballets & dancers; some additional subtitles on this might not have gone amiss.

But how wonderful to see the superb Laurent Hilaire (just see him performing Petit's Carmen with Alessandra Ferri on YouTube), now in his role as inspiring ballet master. And watching all those rehearsals and listening to the thought processes behind the movements... it was FASCINATING. Hence the five stars despite the sewer.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A treat for lovers of ballet, April 15, 2013
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This review is from: La Danse- Le Ballet de l'Opéra de Paris By Frederick Wiseman (Region 1, North America - Original French w/ English Subtitles) (DVD)
For anyone who ever wished to understand the sacrifices the dancers of the Paris Opera Ballet make to produce such exquisite productions, this fly on the wall documentary is for you.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful video, December 20, 2012
By 
A. MARIA RC "Maria" (Guatemala, Central America) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: La Danse- Le Ballet de l'Opéra de Paris By Frederick Wiseman (Region 1, North America - Original French w/ English Subtitles) (DVD)
This documentary is a joy to watch! I have enjoyed seeing it over and over again. If you like ballet, you must have it!
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15 of 24 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Very Disappointed, October 19, 2011
This review is from: La Danse- Le Ballet de l'Opéra de Paris By Frederick Wiseman (Region 1, North America - Original French w/ English Subtitles) (DVD)
This DVD leaves a great deal to be desired, both cinematically and choreographically. To my eye, it fails in both categories and I am puzzled as to why many reviewers give it high marks.

I think it safe to say that the Paris Opera Ballet hasn't been a world-class company for many decades. It's not in the same league as the Bolshoi, the Mariinski, the Royal English Ballet, the ABT or the NYC Ballet.I am surprised Mr. Wiseman chose it as a film subject. On the other hand, ballet is principally an Italian and French invention so perhaps, in Paris, he felt he was - historically and inspirationally - on home turf.

I find the film disjointed, unbalanced and inchoate, without form or chronology. It hops hither and yon without aim or direction. These are snapshots, not narrative. Nor, in my opinion, do the snapshots add up to a successful mosaic.

Mr. Wiseman pays far too much attention to the company's contemporary works whereas I don't believe the company is highly regarded for its contemporary works. It's much better known for its classical works, and many of those are outstanding. This film contains over-long portions of various contemporary performances which finally dominate the film and create the incorrect impression that the Paris Opera Ballet is primarily a modern or contemporary dance company.

Sadly and unaccountably, we get only three/four minutes of a live, classical ballet performance, and it's a beauty. Early on, we watch the principal rehearse her performance with two teachers and partners and we later see her playing around - the most appropriate definition, I think - during a rehearsal in which she executes very clean "fouettes en tournant." Mr. Wiseman or an associate makes the mistake of applauding during the rehearsal and is silenced by a member of the staff. Mr. Wiseman should know better. Whereas big, applauding audiences create a seamless storm of sound a solitary clappper syncopates the music accompanying a dance and makes it hard for the dancer to follow the music's rhythm.

I was really pleased when, at a rehearsal by the superb corps, the classroom pianist broke into a keyboard transcription of music from the extremely brief classical performance that followed later. I guessed that a live performance of the ballet lay ahead and, sure enough, it did. Unhappily, Mr. Wiseman feels compelled to take us on a circuitous and exhausting hike through thick, cheerless, contemporary dance undergrowth before we arrive at the onstage clip of the ballet proper. That said, the principal and the corps perform memorably, and watching the earlier rehearsals adds immeasurably to our enjoyment of the too-short performance.

Dedicated "balletomanes" might agree that rehearsals are the best thing in this film.

There are noteworthy asides here, including excellent exterior and interior views, by day and night, of the iconic Paris opera house. On the roof, a lone bee-keeper tends to his lesser, personal passion above the grander passions at play a few floors below. A pair of staff members slip out for a smoke and another dutifully sorts mail, and the cafeteria cuisine makes you wish you were there, tray in hand. These insightful tid-bits bring us briefly to earth from the lofty heights to which great, even good, ballet can propel us.

Mr. Wiseman is often identified as an exponent of so-called "Cinema Verite," a form for which I have never much cared and which I am told is moribund. Cinema Verite is two-dimensional, without depth, past or future - it's strictly here-and-now. Depth, past and future are difficult to communicate visually and, shorn of words, moving images display sharp limitations. Mr. Wiseman is a very capable film-maker but he's not Chaplin. With his camera and a few inserts, Charlie revealed every angle of his silent stories.

Mr. Wiseman might argue that an intuitive viewer should be able to discover by himself the more elusive and subtle elements of his documentaries without being hit over the head with them. I agree. But not everyone is that intuitive.

At the end of this long film I knew no more about the Paris Opera Ballet than when I dropped the DVD in my laptop tray, other than what the roof and basement look like. I would very much have liked to learn something here. I didn't, and I believe documentary film has an obligation to inform and teach. I recognized the short performance as part of the Paquita "Grand Pas" only because I am familiar with it but I am still not certain of the identity of the principal and her partner. (Let me mention that YouTube has the entire Paquita Grand Pas with the remarkable - uncanny, rather - Alina Somova, in white. Don't go to your grave without watching this from roughly (depending on your player) 30:20 on. Ideally, watch all of it, start to finish. This is choreographic heaven.)

This DVD arrived at my door from Portugal, of all places. There is a language option for Maltese sub-titles (yep, Maltese) but not for English or even Portuguese. The dialogue is in French, a language I fortunately speak. If you don't read Maltese or understand French, this may not be for you.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars We were very disappointed with our purchase of La Danse DVD's that we ..., July 9, 2014
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This review is from: La Danse- Le Ballet de l'Opéra de Paris By Frederick Wiseman (Region 1, North America - Original French w/ English Subtitles) (DVD)
We were very disappointed with our purchase of La Danse DVD's that we bought from Zipporah Films, via Amazon. We expected to receive DVD documentaries that included ballet footage, rather than a poorly assembled group of informal, dull and uninteresting film clips of a ballet company.
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