Strength and Beauty: Giving Ballerinas a Voice
Strength and Beauty: Giving Ballerinas a Voice
A documentary profiling the professional and personal lives of three dancers allowing them to give voice to a diminishing icon.
A documentary profiling the professional and personal lives of three dancers allowing them to give voice to a diminishing icon. Read more
About this project
As a filmmaker and former ballet student I have always been interested in ballet on film and how the ballerina is portrayed. In the past I have often made films involving ballerinas as characters, but have always wanted to make a longer piece focusing entirely on the ballerina. In 2010 I approached dance companies in North Carolina, where I lived at the time, and struck up an immediate rapport with the staff and dancers at North Carolina Dance Theatre in Charlotte, NC. They mirrored my own excitement about my project.
With this documentary I want to give working ballerinas an opportunity to give voice to an icon that is in danger of disappearing from our society. It has been argued that ballet is dying and, thus, so is the ballerina. To accomplish a well-rounded portrayal I felt it was important to profile three dancers: one at the beginning of her career, one at her prime, and one preparing to transition. Luckily, at North Carolina Dance Theatre there were three dancers that fit the bill and were willing to be open and candid about their life experiences.
Due to the response I have been getting to the trailer and the teaser I would like to step the finishing of the film up a notch. Audio finishing is an area that really takes a person with a special ear to perfect a final mix. By taking this film to a sound professional I believe it will truly take it to the next level. I have contacted some Denver (where I now live) area post-production houses that project the cost to be $3-4k. In addition to sound editing I also need enough money for film festival entry fees and publicity materials.
I hope that you will find a donation level that suits you and if you would like to discuss the film further please do not hesitate to contact me. Please also feel free to visit the website, Facebook page, and production blog to learn more.
About North Carolina Dance Theatre and the Featured Dancers
All three dancers featured in Strength and Beauty are employed with North Carolina Dance Theatre in Charlotte. Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux is the president and artistic director of the company; he is assisted by associate artistic director, Patricia McBride. Both are former dancers with New York City Ballet under George Balanchine and bring formidable knowledge to their dancers. They also create a nurturing and gracious environment for their dancers to grow.
For this film, three dancers were interviewed: At the beginning of filming Melissa Anduiza was in her first year with the company; Alessandra Ball, in her seventh; and Traci Gilchrest was completing her fourteenth and preparing for her fifteenth and final season as a full-time company member.
At the beginning of filming, Melissa was completing her first year as a professional ballerina at North Carolina Dance Theatre. She has a degree in dance from the University of South Florida where during her senior year she choreographed a piece entitled “Stained Glass” that she performed at the Kennedy Center. The summer before her senior year at USF, she participated in an intensive dance program with Complexions Dance Company. There, dancing alongside company members, she realized she wanted to be a professional dancer. She also fell in love with Dwight Rhoden’s choreography and the contemporary movement he creates. As luck would have it, Dwight is the resident choreographer at North Carolina Dance Theatre. The chance to work with him on a regular basis is just one of the reasons Melissa is so excited to be working with the NC Dance Theatre.
Having grown up in Miami with the sounds of salsa music drifting through the air, the transition to Charlotte was at first a bit of a culture shock for Melissa. But while she misses those familiar childhood sounds and being close to her family— which includes her parents, two sisters, and a brother— the Queen City has definitely won her over. That’s because Melissa’s favorite color is pink, and when she saw Charlotte’s streets lined in springtime with cherry blossoms and redbuds, she knew she was in the right place.
Alessandra was raised in Atlanta, GA, but neither of her parents are from there. Her mother is Panamanian, so Spanish was often spoken in her home. Yet, if you spend more than fifteen minutes with Alessandra, you’ll see that her time in the South has left its impression. She exudes Southern hospitality, always making sure that everyone in her presence is comfortable, happy, and never in need of anything.
Alessandra has been with NC Dance Theatre for seven seasons. She began her professional career at Colorado Ballet, but after sustaining an injury she chose to leave Denver for Charlotte. There she joined NC Dance Theatre, and in 2005, Artistic Director, Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux, nominated her for the Princess Grace award. Alessandra won the award, which was presented to her by Prince Albert of Monaco. At the ceremony she also had the great pleasure of meeting Mikhail Baryshnikov. Alessandra left Dance Theatre briefly when an opportunity arose for her to dance in Madrid for a year. She had always wanted to experience living outside the United States and enjoyed her time there, but she knew she belonged in Charlotte. Jean-Pierre happily welcomed her back, and today Alessandra has perfected her dance technique. During filming of Strength and Beauty, she went to New York to dance Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux for a special performance honoring Patricia McBride and Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux, and this season she will be dancing the lead in Sleeping Beauty.
Traci started her life as a dancer at a later age than most, the ripe old age of eleven. Ironically, she started out as a jazz dancer and only took a ballet class to improve her coordination. But ballet felt so natural to her that she decided to leave jazz dancing behind and focus on ballet. With her dream of becoming a professional ballerina seemly out of reach, Traci enrolled at Texas Christian University after receiving a full dance scholarship. But before beginning her sophomore year she was offered a position at Hartford Ballet, and she decided college could wait.
Even though her work with North Carolina Dance Theatre has taken Traci away from her Texas home, little reminders of it are everywhere. For instance, her favorite room in her Charlotte home is her kitchen, which she remodeled by herselfa few years agousing tile for her countertops that she brought back all the way from El Paso. Traci’s kitchen is the place where you are most likely to find her relaxing, laughing, and cooking.
Traci is equally comfortable with both classical and contemporary ballet, and she has had many roles created for her, including the Sugar Plum Fairy in Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux’s Nutcracker. Some describe the fourteen-season veteran as the ballerina of which little girls’ dreams are made. In all modesty she states she’s just a dancer; to her the ballerinas worthy of such praise are the likes of Margot Fonteyn and Patricia McBride. Currently, Traci is transitioning to a life off the stage where she is excited to share her experiences and knowledge with a new generation of ballerinas.
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