Today finally marks the general release of the much hyped thriller Black Swan, coming to Oxford’s very own Picture House on Walton Street:

“Inspired by Tchaikovsky’s legendary Swan Lake, the film stars Natalie Portman giving the performance of her career as Nina, a New York ballerina who is picked by company director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) to play both the White Swan and her lustful twin, the Black Swan, in a new production of the ballet.

This fateful decision sets the vulnerable dancer on a collision course with her own fragile psyche, embodied, refracted and reflected in the figure of fellow dancer Lily (Mila Kunis), whose sexual free-spiritedness sharply contrasts with Nina’s own reticent nature.  Add to that a domineering mother (Barbara Hershey) and a faded star (Winona Ryder), and the stage is set for an explosive psychological thrill ride.”

Portman has already picked up a Golden Globe for her performance.  However one wonders how convincing an actress with limited ballet preparation, however intense, can possibly be in portraying a dancer capable of one of the iconic roles of classical ballet.  Ballet shapes and informs the whole body, there is no hiding or trickery that can disguise a lack of understanding or expertise.  The Red Shoes after all starred the beautiful Moira Shearer, able to convince not only through her acting but through dancing at the highest level. Was it really not possible to find a current major ballet artist with the acting skills to undertake this role, or did the producers simply play it safe for financial reasons with a film box office name?

Critics from other disciplines have been warm in admiration; it would be good to hear the verdict of those with some knowledge of dance.  Apart from scepticism as to the cast’s ability to embody dancers, from reading the blurb I steel myself to face a barage of hysteria about the world of ballet and behaviour of those within it.  I hope that these preconceptions are confounded when I come to see the film.  Looking forward to hearing what others in the dance world make of it, please post your impressions in response to this…

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