Let me preface this by saying that I think it's time we move on from all this jibber jabber and actually do something about ballet's issues. Too much talk...
Anyway, here are few more interesting news items I've come across over the past few days about "Black Swan," the whole Alastair/Jeni Ringer deal, and eating disorders in ballet...
First off, in response to the HuffPost article I was in yesterday, one of my ballet teachers who danced as a soloist in NYCB under Balanchine for many years said, "Interesting...my generation, I think, just worked to be better dancers and better artists and hoped the audience would be moved by what we were doing. I never thought of trying to be perfect, that would be asking for WAY too much. We had a good time and apparently it worked. Then again...I remember dancing mostly for the audience not for other dancers."
I think that obsession for perfection that we see so strongly in Natalie Portman's character is inherent in the art form -- we're asking our bodies to do things physically unnatural -- but the emphasis on that has grown over the years for dancers themselves. Now it's so much about tricks and turns and competition.
Here's an interesting radio interview with two prominent ballet people in Boston: one of my former teachers, Margaret Tracey, who now directs Boston Ballet School, and Jose Mateo of Jose Mateo Ballet Theater. It's fascinating to me to hear the director side of things sometimes. In the midst of all this ballet press I feel like many spokespeople are giving cookie cutter, "nice" answers to questions about ballet. "Oh yes, our ballerinas are healthy." We seem to be protecting our art form - myself included - which makes sense. But the truth is (and it's pointed out around 15:00 in the interview) that there's a huge gap between what we say and what we do. We say we love ballerinas of all healthy shapes and sizes. Then we hire or cast the "perfect" ones. Hmm...something's not right. I'm really curious to read Elizabeth Sullivan's Columbia thesis that's referenced in the interview, titled "The Introduction of Wellness Programs in Pre-Professional Ballet Schools in the United States.
Moving on...here's a health expert's opinion about the psychological aspects of Natalie Portman's character. "But could Natalie Portman's character have carried off the demanding ballet performance in a psychotic state? Doctors say it would have been 'unlikely.'" It's pretty clear from the start of the film that this is fiction, fantasy, not real. That's why I think this works as a decent film for our art -- it's not claiming to be a true representation of ballet dancers, and it's not duplicating the cheesy stereotypes of "Center Stage."