DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog: Only When I Dance

Friday 7 January 2011

Only When I Dance

Only When I Dance (2010) dir. Beadie Finzi


By Alan Bacchus

Beadie Finzi's inspiring documentary charts the journeys of two ballet dancers, both from 'slums' of Rio de Janeiro, where their supreme artistic talents has allowed them to rise up out of poverty and into the competitive world of dance.

Irlan is a teenaged boy who is characterized as the most promising young ballet dancer in the country. Isabella is a spry young girl with immense talent but unfortunately doesn't have the exact type of body world class ballerina posses. Both come from the notorious favelas of Brazil, the same violent place where City of God is set in. Both are also black, which, unfortunately like in many places in the world, means they have to work even harder than everyone else to be noticed.

Finzi takes us on a year long journey where we see Irlan and Isabella receive scholarships to the renowned Centro de Dance Rio, one of the most rigorous and prestigious ballet schools in Brazil, a stepping stone which will take them to New York City where the world's best dance companies recruit their new talent.

It’s heartbreaking to see the anguish on Isabella’s face when she tells us of the pressure to keep her wight down. The poor girl, barely 15 and with a beautiful slim body, but not slim enough for international competition. The emotion is up front and raw and uninhibited. For Irlan, he is a near flawless dancer, and the suspense comes from his parents' struggle to pay for the necessary travel arrangements where his opportunities lay.

The competition is fierce and Beadie rings out as much suspense as she can from the judge's deliberation and eventually dramatic decision announcements. The dancing is superb. I don’t know ballet from Adam but Irlan’s final dance routine in Switzerland, channelling the soul of Nijinsky, the edgy torture Russian dancer controversial for his new style of dance, is truly awesome.

Watching Irlan and Isabella travel the world is also a thrill. Like Irlan trying to catch snow on his tongue in Switzerland, or Isabella mesmerized by the Times Square light show. Seeing the world for the first time through their eyes is as triumphant as their work on the stage. If anything I only wish we saw more of the kids, both on stage and experiencing these new vibrant worlds. At 79mins, there's much room to flesh out some of these tender and intimate moments.

Otherwise, Only When I Dance, should serve as a credible rousing and real world alternative to the manufactured American Idol or other similar TV reality song and dance shows. This is the real deal.

Only When I Dance is available on DVD from Film Movement, the December DVD of the Month Selection. Click HERE for more info.

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