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By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
March 28, 1988


Herbert Ross
Mikhail Baryshnikov;
Leslie Browne
Parental guidance suggested

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"Dancers," despite the dazzle of Mikhail Baryshnikov, is a corpse de ballet. After a long wait in the wings, the disaster premieres in Washington just two weeks prior to its videocassette release on April 6. A mix of drama and dance, it proves a clumsy attempt at linking the romantic liaisons of a dance company with those of the characters they portray in "Giselle."

The troupe arrives in southern Italy to film a performance of the 19th-century ballet, led by Tony, the most celebrated male dancer in the world. (While the part isn't exactly an acting challenge for Baryshnikov, it is still pleasant to see him in his tights.) Tony is distraught, a man out of touch with the passion that once propelled his pirouettes. Predictably enough, he is renewed through a dalliance with 17-year-old Lisa (Julie Kent, formerly Julie Cox of Potomac), the newest member of the group. A Contessa (Mariangela Melato) also vies for his affections.

A similar plot unfolds as the dancers rehearse "Giselle" and finally perform the last act, with Baryshnikov in fine form as Albrecht. Alessandra Ferri of American Ballet Theatre dances the title role of Giselle, and as Francesca, she's having an affair with Tony in real life. Leslie Browne, who was his love interest in "The Turning Point," costars as a cynical ballerina who has given up on men and dances the role of the Queen of the Wilis, a spirit who has likewise given up on men.

This parallel construction has been done brilliantly in such films as Carlos Saura's "Carmen," in which a flamenco choreographer is enchanted by the real-life Carmen he has cast in the leading role. Here the coincidences don't send shivers up our spines; they only show us how much better off we'd be at a performance of "Giselle."

Dancers, at the Dupont Circle, is rated PG.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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