If you look up the history of American ballet you will quickly discover the name George Balanchine. While ballet existed in the United States before him, he made it what it is today. He’s a legend in the industry, and for many, a genius in choreography and dance. If you don’t know anything about ballet, however, it can be hard to see why he’s such a big deal without discovering it for yourself. In Balachine’s Classroom can help you with that.
In Balachine’s Classroom is director Connie Hochman’s tribute to the man behind many of the masterworks she performed. She learned to become a professional ballet dancer at his school. And during that time she grew to love the bond between him and his dancers. It led her to seek the answer to what happened in his classrooms that helped them all bring the artistic visions of the man to life. In 2007 she started interviewing several of his former students to find out their opinions and see what they thought about George. The result, along with archival footage of the man in action, is this documentary. No one has seen much of this footage before, and all of it gives a clearer picture of who the man was, including a brief history of what he did throughout his lifetime.
On the surface, In Balachine’s Classroom has a very limited audience. While many enjoy dance and ballet as entertainment, it’s not for everyone. The film also paints a very glowing picture of the man, with few negative aspects of his personality shown. Reading between the lines however you can see that he was very driven to the point of obsession. This couldn’t have been easy for some of his students. Repeating the same move hundreds of times in a row until the choreography was right truthfully borders on madness. It would have been a more well-rounded documentary if it showed all sides. This includes dancers who couldn’t cut it or flunked out. There were a few, but they were mostly buried between the glowing tributes and could be missed if you blinked.
As I say this, many of Balachine’s dancers carried on his legacy, teaching new students what he taught them in hopes of finding the next generation of ballerinas and dancers. That in itself shows the man’s genius, and how he must have truly inspired others. In Balachine’s Classroom is an interesting look into ballet and the creative process, and even someone who isn’t a fan of the art form can appreciate the drive, passion and desire.