The second episode of the New York City Ballet’s series focuses on two apprentices, and from a production standpoint, it’s ok. The audio quality of the interviews can be echo-y due to their choice of location, though the editor’s cuts in the dialogue are well hidden by the cuts to the dance. We will never know what Silas Farley really said after 01:23 due to the cut away and change in dialogue made by the editor, but that is a normality in video. They made the transition appear almost unnoticeable to the causal viewer, so that’s a plus. The series makes good use of the up angle, and while the shots they chose for slow motion seem unnecessary, it’s almost obligatory in documentaries these days. They even make use of the “300” slow motion technique. That being the act of a regular speed shot being sped up and subsequently slowed down. We don’t mind the effect, though we feel it’s bringing out the fury too early.
Another thing we noticed is how the people we’re following come off as more privileged than someone who clawed their way to the top. The dwelling of Clare Von Enck is immaculate for the area. When we learn that all of her sisters have also reached similar levels of dance, one can’t help but wonder if it’s talent or money. We get a reiteration from Peter Martins of how the dancers have “one chance” and there is a nice sense of dignified urgency. It’s subtle and we like subtle. The cliffhanger makes you want to find out if Clare and Silas have made it, ..kind of. Let’s just say this; MANY dancers start dancing at 3 and 4, so the introduction was not enough to sway investment in the specific dancers we’re following. There has to be more, which brings us to..
The issue. The issue we have here is that the dialogue is focused around two things; The practices of the NYC Ballet, and how the dancers go there. There isn’t much thought from the dancers on what dance means to them, we’re just supposed to assume “a lot” because there’s a lot of sweating going on. They speak more on how they arrived and what they’ve done, but it’s not personal, and it’s not deep. Peter Martins himself has maybe one line of significance outside of his talking about general NYC Ballet procedure. “What I want to see is hunger.” THAT is interesting stuff. We would really like to know what he’s looking for, what impresses him, what makes for unique dance. We want to learn and get to know the people here. We wanted to see dancers getting corrected, or someone raising their voice, but that kind of intensity is missing. No one has to scream, no one has to cry, but someone had to do something besides leap in the air in slow motion. We don’t blame the dancers or the instructors, this just seemed to be what the show was going for. It’s obvious they asked specific questions and/or edited the dialogue to sway a certain direction. At least you now know what you’re watching. You’re not watching a series that will enlighten you to the inner psyche and workings of a ballerina, you’re learning how the NYC Ballet operates. This isn’t “Personal stories, interpretations and experiences” it’s “We’re NYC Ballet, and you should respect and fear us.”
But there’s plenty more of the series, so perhaps that will change.