Film: 5188

Dance | 1940 | Sound | B/W


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A film narrated by Robert Helpmann demonstrating the basic movements and steps of ballet, at the Hackney Empire. 1940's

This film was one of the first of its kind to show behind the scenes of a ballet, and it follows the development of routines into dances, and the contribution of the choreographer, composer, artist and stage manager. A full ballet with a storyline is seen at the end. The principle dancers are Gerad Larson, Alexander Grant, Gorden Hamilton, Elaine Fifield and Micheal Bolton.

The dancing schools used in this film are from the Covent Garden Opera Trust, Sadler's Wells and Corps de Ballet, the music is by the London Philharmonic Orchestra. As the music ends the dancers move off stage and the camera moves to the side of the wings where a man is standing, Robert Helpmann, the narrator, he is wearing a suit. Close up of the narrator's head and shoulders as he explains they will be putting on a new ballet, he describes the people involved in putting on a ballet, and the language of ballet is French, he talks about the positions of the body, and extends his hand, we see a close up of his arm. The narrator's arm fades and a girl's arm appears, the girl performs some positions of the arms, and then some ballet positions of the head, the girl stands in the 5th ballet position, the performs an arabesque, the narrator talks about the need for balance, the camera moves in on the girl on points and she dances in this position, a man's feet in ballet slippers jumps in front of her feet. The male ballet dancer dances and jumps in the air to demonstrate lightness, he then performs some turns, the camera moves back to the narrator, the narrator talks about exercise and pulls back the curtain on the stage to show some male and female dancers practicing by a bar, they then perform the same steps away from the bar, the dancers then begin a short dance, the camera then focuses on one man who demonstrates some bending. A female dancer shows some stretches. A male dancer rises up on his toes. A female dancer performs a darting movement. A male dancer turns, and then the other dancers join him to perform a routine, a female dancer is seen close up. We see the female dancer performing a quick dance, an allegro, she finishes and her choreographer steps on from the wings along with a male dancer.

The choreographer performs some steps and talks about the dance, the man and woman then perform the dance, a romantic love scene, the narrator explains how the woman uses the man to balance, the dance ends with a close of the two dancers. The two dancers walk over to the piano, the narrator explains the role of the composer. Close up of the composer talking and playing, the camera moves to the centre stage while a woman dances, two other women join he, the narrator notes the particular use of arm movement, and the grace and dignity of the dance because the three women are playing the parts of goddesses, the camera moves to the wings as the women dance off and we see the artist discussing with the stage manager the requirements of the scenery. We see four men standing on a piece of scenery that is meant to be an archway, the men jump forward and perform a lively dance, the narrator explains these men will perform the character parts in the ballet, they end the dance in a pose, and then people begin to walk on the stage with scenery, sweeping brooms, costumes and music scores, and the set is put together. The narrator explains the story behind the ballet, a female dancer is seen powdering her face. We see a male dancer fixing his slipper, the narrator describes how a princess falls in love with a man, yet three goddesses watch over the princess and wish to make sure she makes the right choice in love. We see three wigs with crowns on, the three dancers pick them up and try them on. We see four male dancers who will play the princess's suitors , one is her true love in disguise, they are in a dressing room, the narrator explains how the three suitors will attempt to woo the princess with gifts - a rose of poetry, a bird in a golden cage, and power and riches; her true love in disguise will offer her only a kiss, we see a prop technician admire all these gifts, the dancers are seen preparing, stretching before the ballet, and a curtain falls across them.

The narrator introduces the ballet. We see the ballet described, firstly a group of female dancers perform in a wood, and the princess dancer enters and dances. The male dancer who plays her true love enters, and they dance together on an empty stage. The three goddesses we saw earlier stand by the archway piece of scenery, they begin to dance and send the true love dancer away. The four male suitors appear through the archway and dance, the first suitor presents the rose and the princess rejects it, dropping the prop on the ground, the prince with the caged bird dances, but the princess rejects him, the third suitor shows her a crown and bows to her, but she rejects him also, the fourth suitor performs a dance, and the princess dances with him, the goddesses dance around them and the suitor removes his disguise, the couple kiss and the whole cast dance together, they strike a pose as the music ends and the curtain falls on the ballet.

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