Emily Wells presents: Frederick Wiseman's Ballet (1995) in 16mm
America’s living master of cinema-vérité chronicles the rehearsals, backstage preparations, administrative comedy and full-stage splendor of the American Ballet Theater company.
May 21, 2023, 7:00 PM
2220 Arts + Archives, 2220 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90057, USA
directed by Frederick Wiseman
1995, 170m, U.S., 16mm
Introduced by Emily Wells, author of A Matter of Appearance
16mm print courtesy of Zipporah Films
America’s living master of cinema-vérité chronicles the intensive rehearsals, backstage preparations, administrative comedy and full-stage splendor of the American Ballet Theater company during the spring and summer of 1992. With the director’s usual lack of narration or talking heads, the film privileges full immersion within the dancers’ day-to-day routines, from their rehearsal spaces on lower Broadway to their tour through Copenhagen and Athens. The first and perhaps least-seen of Wiseman’s inimitable dance films, which he would continue with the Paris Opera Ballet (La danse) and the burlesque (Crazy Horse) – the film is an ode to the extraordinary rigor and discipline that goes into the art of ballet.
Special thanks to Erica J. Hill (Zipporah Films).
“Its portrait of ballet dancers at work has no parallel.”
–The Washington Post
“[Wiseman] follows American Ballet Theatre’s dancers, choreographers, and backstage personnel through the arduous construction of a dance. Whether he’s recording a ballet master’s interview with a young hopeful or observing Natalia Makarova giving instructions in the projection of glamour and allure, Wiseman remains transfixed by the rigorous and highly traditional notion of beauty that the workers are trying to honor.” –The New Yorker
“It’s great to see rehearsing dancers and their prompters thinking with their bodies, then trying to explain their thoughts and feelings in words.” -Jonathan Rosenbaum
Emily Wells is a writer living in Los Angeles. A Matter of Appearance, a memoir binding the author’s account of autoimmune disease to 19th century French hysteria and discursive histories of ballet and illness, is her first book, and has been called "absolutely dazzling" (Lena Dunham) and "gorgeously written and beautifully argued" (Chris Kraus).