Chronicling Ballet’s Pain and Passion

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Roslyn Sulcas writes: The photographer Henry Leutwyler was building a career in fashion and portrait work in Paris in the late 1980s when he was sent on assignment to photograph Jorge Donn, the charismatic principal dancer who had risen to fame with Maurice Béjart’s Ballet of the 20th Century. The job proved to be a turning point for the Swiss-born Mr. Leutwyler, now 51, who subsequently spent time photographing Mr. Donn and his fellow dancers in Béjart’s company, which was based in Lausanne, Switzerland. After moving to New York in 1996 Mr. Leutwyler continued to take celebrity portraits but found a way back to dance when New York City Ballet hired him to document repertory pieces. One assignment turned into several more, and eventually he won permission to take pictures backstage, in class and rehearsal. The result is “Ballet: Photographs of the New York City Ballet,” (Steidl, $88), a weighty tome that offers a subtle, revealing view of the life of one of the world’s most prominent ballet companies.

See a selection of photos in The New York Times here.

First Position

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Every year, thousands of aspiring dancers enter one of the world’s most prestigious ballet competitions, the Youth America Grand Prix, where lifelong dreams are at stake. In the final round, with hundreds competing for only a handful of elite scholarships and contracts, nothing short of perfection is acceptable. Bess Kargman’s award-winning, box office hit documentary FIRST POSITION follows six extraordinary dancers as they prepare for the chance to enter the world of professional ballet, struggling through bloodied feet, near exhaustion and debilitating injuries, all while navigating the drama of adolescence. A showcase of awe-inspiring talent, tenacity and passion, FIRST POSITION paints a thrilling and moving portrait of the most gifted ballet stars of tomorrow. First Position had its World Premiere at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival and was named the audience choice’s 1st runner-up for Best Documentary. It also won the Jury Prize at the San Francisco Doc Fest, the audience award for Best Documentary at the Dallas International Film Festival, the audience award for Best Documentary at the Portland International Film Festival, and the audience award for Best Documentary at DOC NYC. Prior to its completion, First Position won the WESTDOC PitchFest. Director Bess Kargman was also given the Best New Director award at the Portland International Film Festival in 2012. [Source]




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[via Haruko Kawanishi]

UPDATE! There seems to be some confusion about how to see First Position. 1) If you live in North America you can watch it on VOD, iTunes, Netflix or buy the DVD on Amazon (with all of the cool DVD extras). If you live in South America the film will be available in less than two months and if you live in Europe or Australia/NZ the film will be released in cinemas in exactly 9 weeks. We apologize profusely for the delay but because we have sold the film to distributors all around the world we don’t have control over the release dates they choose or how long they take to subtitle the film in various languages.