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Great Performances: La Danse: Le Ballet De L’opera De Paris

Airs Sunday, June 20, 2010 at 12 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: Members of the Paris Opera Ballet rehearse "The Nutcracker."

Marie-Agnès Gillot in a performance of "Genus," created by young British choreographer Wayne McGregor. The work was inspired by Charles Darwin's "On the Origin of Species."
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Above: Marie-Agnès Gillot in a performance of "Genus," created by young British choreographer Wayne McGregor. The work was inspired by Charles Darwin's "On the Origin of Species."

For his 38th film, master documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman turns his unblinking eye on one of the world’s leading ballet companies, the Paris Opera Ballet. Cinematographer John Davey’s camera roams the company’s home at the vast Palais Garnier opera house from top to bottom, gliding down chandelier-laden corridors to the theater’s labyrinthine underground chambers, pausing to observe from the sidelines of light-drenched rehearsal studios, then slipping past the plush scarlet seats of the opulent theater to record a dazzling selection of final performances.

A costumer in the workroom of the Paris Opera Ballet.
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Above: A costumer in the workroom of the Paris Opera Ballet.

“La Danse” devotes the bulk of its time to watching rigorously trained young dancers in rehearsals and performances for seven ballets: "Genus" by Wayne McGregor, "Paquita" by Pierre Lacotte, "The Nutcracker" by Rudolf Nureyev, "Medea" by Angelin Preljocaj, "The House of Bernarda Alba" by Mats Ek, "Romeo and Juliet" by Sasha Waltz and "Orpheus and Eurydyce" by Pina Bausch.

In addition, the film records the behind-the-scenes activity involved in administering the company, along with the collaborative work of choreographers, ballet masters, dancers, musicians, and costume, set and lighting designers. For balletomanes and the curious alike, “La Danse” serves up a sumptuous banquet of delectable dance.

Video

Trailer: La Danse: Le Ballet De L'opera De Paris

Above: Documentary master director Frederick Wiseman's latest film eloquently follows the rehearsals and performances of seven ballets including "Genus" by Wayne McGregor and "Romeo and Juliette" by Sasha Waltz. In addition to these breathtaking performances, the film artfully captures the collaborative effort of choreographers, ballet masters, dancers, musicians, and costume, set, and lighting designers.

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