This movie is about ballet and the setting is the Joffrey Ballet Company of Chicago. It grips you from the very start with a riveting performance using white cloth strips rolling out from and back to the roof, held by the performers, forming symmetrical crisscrossed shapes one after another as they dance away.
A couple of awesome performances come up as the movie unfolds. The one where a swing, hung from above onto the center of the stage, seems to dance with, for and together with the dancer, is a must see. Also wondrous is an open air performance which keeps the audience riveted in the midst of sudden winds, billowing hair and rain. The weather seems to change as this dance progresses, subtly acknowledging its magic on nature.
The movie does not really have a plot but has a deeper message: people who do exquisite things are just like us, ordinary folks. The dancers are divine when performing; but for a living, they are ordinary high-heeled waitresses with boy friends who are not dancers. There are no crazy creative eccentrics in this world. Nor do we see animosities, jealousies or bloated egos.
There is extensive footage covering ballet rehearsals and practice. The dance performances are excellent and have been filmed well. The juxtaposing of the backstage with the live performances does not jar the smooth and gentle flow of the narrative about this exquisite world of ballet and its performers.
The soft sounds of footsteps during rehearsals and performances make the viewer feel that this is for real. It is inspiring to see the malleable and beautifully sculpted bodies of dancer-mothers in their 40’s. It’s “all in a day’s work” for them.
However, the grand finale was somewhat garish and disappointing, with unconventional colors and dance which was different from the remaining “classical” performances in the movie.
Director Robert Altman has succeeded in keeping ballet in the forefront. Malcolm McDowell has given a very good performance as the level headed Director of the ballet company. The pretty Neve Campbell has excelled as the principal dancer and lead personality in this story about extraordinary ballet and ordinary life.