Ballet fever is raging. To be a celebrity is the national ideal. To be oneself and happy is the goal of education.Popular entertainment demonstrates that success in the performing arts is a matter of personality, inspriration and luck.
Quick: Rush all children who have been exposed to any of this to see. "The Children of Theatre Street."
In this documentary film on the great Kirov ballet school, they will indeed see the glamor and glory of being a ballet superstar, here made especially vivid in constrast with the style-less life of other Leningrad streets. But they will also see the incredible work and discipline that young children are willing to undergo in the hope of achieving not just fame, but art.
Ballet is not doing what comes naturally, the film keeps emphasizing; it is training one's body to do more.
The school produced three of the current superstars on the American ballet scene - Baryshnikov, Nureyev and Makarova - but erased their records when they defected. However, it can still boast of nearly all the greats of ballet history.
"Theatre Street" has been known to generations of American dance students because Tamara Karsavina's memoirs by that name have become something of a cult at ballet schools. When Karsavina went there it was Imperial Ballet School of St. Persburg, and Anna Pavlova was a promising senior. One hates to think what would have happened in those days to the students we see racing though the halls of what is now named the Vaganova Choreographic Institute, in their sloppy clothes and ponytails. Yet the convent-like dedication and discipline described in those musty memoirs has survived there into the modern world.
We see nine-year-olds alternately pushing themselves and grumbling that they'd like to run away. We see the school's start at her graduation performance, refusing to accept the equivalent of Tonight-all-Leningrad-is-yours because she has not met her own standards. We see a limp student applying to a staff person for comford - not because she is bore or depressed or is searching for her identify, but because her legs ache; she badly needs a massage, but not of the ego.
Princess Grace nee Kelly, in the old role of royal patron, narrates the film. It has some stunning scenes from Kirov, Bolshoi and Mali. Theatre performances, and if they are visually interrupted to show the workers behind the star, this is skillfully done and makes a vivid point. If the children in the audience understand this point and still want to study ballet, then it might be worthwhile.