Ballet 422 (2014) / Documentary
MPAA Rated: PG for brief language
Running Time: 75 min.
Cast: Justin Peck, Tiler Peck, Sterling Hyltin, Amar Ramasar, Albert Evans, Andrews Sill
Director: Jody Lee Lipes
Review published March 4, 2015
Ballet 422 is an immersive, 75-minute documentary showcasing the 422nd new production showcased in the New York City Ballet. It's a major gig for 25-year-old NYCB dancer and choreographer Justin Peck, "Paz de la Jolla", with lots of expectations for Peck to repeat the good buzz that surrounded his last big show at the Lincoln Center. What immediately strikes you is how professional and composed everyone is, making suggestions rather than demands, collaborating fully and deferentially, with scarcely an ego in sight. A fictional film on the same subject would have featured a madman at the helm, constantly throwing fits, driving his dancers to tears.
Directed by fellow choreographer Jody Lee Lipes, Ballet 422 shows us various snippets of the rehearsal process leading up to the opening night performance, including Peck's interaction with the main dancers, his assistants, the costume specialists, and the musicians. With the exception of a few intertitle moments giving the background of the production we're about to follow, there are no talking heads describing what's going on. We witness all of the scenes as an observer following around the various talent as they practice and gear up for the big show.
Ballet 422 will probably be of limited appeal, mostly targeting fans of ballet, dance, or just interesting looks behind the scenes of a big, show business production. It showcases the choreographer and his main stars, but also gives us refreshing moments we are almost never privy to see, such as the way the costumes are dyed and fitted, or some of the conceptual decisions that are made in terms of who steps where and in what fashion. Every detail is meticulously worked on until they achieve as close to perfection as their time table will allow. And that rehearsal time is pretty much all we're going to truly see, as Lipes decides to leave out, save for a few choice snippets, the grand final production that all of these individuals have collaborated so rigorously to achieve. For that, you had to be one of the lucky ones to have purchased a ticket and attended.
I'm no expert at ballet, or even an aficionado, but I did enjoy the behind-the-scenes approach of Ballet 422. It's not an artful showcase other than it captures fine art in production, but for a fly-on-the-wall perspective on just how much goes into a ballet production, I came away with much more appreciation for the art of dance than I had going in.
©2015 Vince Leo