BALLET 422 (2015)
Documentary starring Justin Peck, Amar Ramasar, Sterling Hyltin, Tiler Peck
Directed by Jody Lee Lipes
Based on the New York City Ballet's 422nd new work, Paz de la Jolla, choreographed by 25-year-old Justin Peck, this new documentary from cinematographer Jody Lee Lipes is an interesting look at the amount of work and focus that is required to successfully stage a new ballet.
Working on a schedule that only allowed 2 months to put together a new dance to Bohuslav Martinu’s 1935 Sinfonietta de la Jolla, Peck is intensely focused at the task on hand. The recently promoted soloist was, at the time of filming, just a member of the corps de ballet (junior dancers that serve as the backdrop for the principle soloists), who won acclaim in the company's choreography program and selected to put together the new production.
I always imagined that it took a lot of hard work to stage a ballet, but I never realized how many people were involved in putting the final product together. Apart from the dancers, you have the orchestra, musicians, costume designers, seamstresses, lighting techs, stage managers, etc,. It's fascinating to watch so many talented people working together, throwing out ideas, and getting in sync while the film counts down the weeks to the days to the night before.
At the forefront of Ballet 422 is Peck's chosen 3, the lead principle dancers, Sterling Hyltin, Amar Ramasar, and Tiler Peck (no relation to Justin). Looking a bit psychotic as Peck intensely studies his principle dancers, the choreographer is seen working one and one with each of them as he goes over ever every intricate move.
Watching everything come together in just two weeks is completely engrossing and I expected the film to culminate with a performance of the finished piece, but it is just reduced to an out of focus backdrop as Lipes keeps the camera on Peck as he watches the performance as part of the audience.
"Ballet 422" is shot cinéma vérité style and doesn't focus on any of the participants personal lives nor does it attempt to capture any sort of behind the scenes drama, it is, however, very entertaining and you're left with a new-found appreciation towards all those involved in the production of a new ballet.