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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Movies: Black Swan


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I don't remember this being mentioned before, but I just want to say that this is nothing new in the movie industry. Off the top of my head, I can think of 'West Side Story' where it certainly was not publicized that Natalie Wood did not sing her own songs, or that Audrey Hepburn did not sing on her own in 'My Fair Lady'. When I saw these as a child, I never got the connection that these actors were NOT the ones singing. Yes, I was young, but it wasn't until I was an adult that I really started thinking about it and realized this. I remember feeling that somewhere - even in the credits at least - there should have been some credit for the actual singer! (and then the parody 'Singing In The Rain' comes to mind!) There are many more endless examples of this happening in the industry, and I guess they've just never had the opportunity to use this technique in a ballet movie until now. I think it's just not appropriate to try to infer that someone with little training could perform the same way as a professional. And I don't agree that anyone with half a brain would know better. I know so many people who know nothing of ballet and technique and it wouldn't even enter into their minds that Ms. Portman didn't do all the dancing in the movie. And they certainly wouldn't know a thing about the difference between a plie and a pique. They probably wouldn't care either. I don't think that matters to me. But what does matter is the industry trying to make it seem that it's not that difficult. I don't like it when it's done for singing, and I don't like it now that it's moved to dancing. I'm happy that Ms. Lane is standing up for it, and I see her point. I think it's good publicity for ballet and the movie. Any dialogue that enforces seeking the truth IMO is worth having. Frankly, I don't see the issue with the movie agreeing that in fact that Ms. Lane could be correct. What would be the harm in that? I would respect them for being truthful. I agree, they want the publicity - period. But that's okay too. Maybe then more people will come to a ballet performance to see for themselves how difficult it is, and the ballet world will gain more patrons. :cool2:

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luceroblanco

^ I disagree--and will have to agree to disagree. This is not the first time this has happened with dance. There was the case of Flashdance, which had a lot more dance scenes in it than Black Swan. Perhaps I missed the publicity where they were saying that Natalie Portman became a professional ballerina in 1.5 years. I never thought she did, and all the interviews I read from her she acknowledged that she had trained "like" a ballerina but she admitted that it was very hard and that she had a dance double. I really did not see them marketing the film as if she had done all the dance, but perhaps I missed it.

 

The other reason why I disagree is that I don't think it is good publicity for Ms. Lane or for ballet. It may be good publicity for the movie--after reading and watching the interview Ms. Lane gave, it made me feel more sorry for Natalie Portman and want to go see her current movie, which looks like an absolute piece of junk. But Ms. Lane has made a mountain of a molehill IMO. I believe that people should speak up, but in this case she signed a contract to dance as the double and she received the credit she signed on for. Calling everyone else a liar just seems very ungracious and unprofessional to me. It further fits into the stereotype of catty and narcissistic, which many ballet dancers objected to in the first place, in the movie. I am not saying that Ms. Lane is, but if you read the comments after her interviews, that is how she is being perceived by the general public. And I don't think that does anything favorable for ballet as a whole.

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^ Really? I watched. I don't think Ms. Lane came off well. I was very distracted by her poor speech. I counted 19 "you know"s in her short conversation. The video was only about 2.5 minutes! It didn't do anything to change my mind--I think she should have just kept quiet. Now I just have an image of her as an undereducated individual who has sour grapes because she wasn't given credit. I still don't think the majority of fans believe that Natalie did most of the dancing--most don't care. All kind of "spin" happens with movies.

It's unfortunate you feel that way. I know and have known many brilliant people who didn't possess a lot of charisma and who weren't great orators. Yet, they are brilliant and wonderful people, the kind of people you wish we had more of. It's that old thing about not judging a book by its cover. And that's not to say Sarah lacks charisma.

 

While I too noticed her speech with the "you knows", I immediately excused it. Had I been in her position, my speech might have even been worse. I am sure she's not happy being in a spotlight defending her position, even though that's a role she chose. For her, it was likely the lesser of evils.

 

Ballet is not about speech. Instead, it's about dance. And when ABC showed a dance clip of her, I saw magic.

 

My takeaway was completely different than yours. I saw an honest person who believes that not only she has been wronged, but so has her art and passion. Ballet itself has been harmed by a star who appears to be overly happy to be leaving the ballet world and who gives the impression that in only eighteen months she became a ballerina.

 

So Sarah decided to speak out, knowing that there would be some spill back. Outside of ballet, she is most likely like us, human. She has her strengths and weaknesses. She likely hasn't been coached, unlike Hollywood stars, to answer reporters' questions.

 

There is so much more to intelligence than simple book smarts or oratory skills. In fact, Daniel Goldman has a book Emotional Intelligence: 10th Anniversary Edition; Why It Can Matter More Than IQ. (Please use the Amazon link at the top.) When I saw her speak out publicly and forcefully to right a wrong, even in her own awkward manner, I immediately identified with her. Who among us hasn't been taken advantage of by someone with greater wealth and power? And yet, here she is willing to take the wrath of the naysayers to correct what she believes is a wrong. My guess is that her emotional IQ is off-scale.

 

You see an image of undereducated individual who has sour grapes because she wasn't given credit. I see a courageous woman, who despite lacking the support of a media empire, decided to politely speak out in attempt to set the record straight so that others would have a better appreciation of what it takes to be a dancer or ballerina.

 

This situation reminds me Simon and Garfunkel's The Boxer

I am just a poor boy

Though my story's seldom told

I have squandered my resistance

For a pocket full of mumbles such are promises

All lies and jests

Still a man hears what he wants to hear

And disregards the rest

I suppose we each what we want to see and disregard the rest.

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I don't remember this being mentioned before, but I just want to say that this is nothing new in the movie industry. Off the top of my head, I can think of 'West Side Story' where it certainly was not publicized that Natalie Wood did not sing her own songs, or that Audrey Hepburn did not sing on her own in 'My Fair Lady'. When I saw these as a child, I never got the connection that these actors were NOT the ones singing. Yes, I was young, but it wasn't until I was an adult that I really started thinking about it and realized this. I remember feeling that somewhere - even in the credits at least - there should have been some credit for the actual singer!

 

Mobadt - Thank you for mentioning this, it has been on my mind as I have been watching the Black Swan controversy unfold.

Marni Nixon was the singer dubbing Audrey Hepburn (My Fair Lady), Natalie Wood (West Side Story) and Deborah Kerr (the King and I) and even provided a few top notes for Marilyn Monroe in "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend"

She was never credited on screen until the release of these films years later on VHS. She was not even credited on the soundtrack recordings! She never gave an interview insisitng that everybody acknowledge her contribution to these films.

Like Miss Lane, she is a professional in her field, well known in the world of choral and operatic music, and she has enjoyed a successful career.

 

But unlike Miss Nixon, Sarah Lane has removed herself from any long term association with the film, and will now be remembered, not for the beautiful dancing she contributed to "Black Swan", but that she was disgruntled and petty; she won't be called by Hollywood again, but you can be sure, the producers of the next film requiring a dance double will have a non-disclosure clause included to avoid any more head aches.

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luceroblanco

Stecyk: I agree that Ballet is not about speech. However, the clip that is on the ABC website that was linked to this board did not show any dancing so I do not know what you saw. It just showed her speaking--and in that interview she did not come off well--an interview is about how you communicate and not just the message--the message gets lost and undermined if you cannot communicate well in 2.5 minutes. All I'm saying is from her actions up to this point, it seemed to me like sour grapes--the interview did not dispel that. I also did not say she wasn't intelligent. Note I said "undereducated."

 

Thank you for the citation about Emotional Intelligence. I am familiar with the book and its theories. All of this to me is irrelevant. We come from a different premise. I believe that what you sign on your contract is what you follow through with. If you don't like the credit you are going to get or the money you are going to get, then you dispute it or you don't take the gig. I think it is unprofessional and ungracious to complain during a gig or after a gig about these kinds of things that one has already AGREED to, especially in public. As far as Hollywood, they make up all kinds of nonsense about everyone. I think that is part and parcel to being involved in a film. Most of what she says is hearsay. I don't feel that Ms. Lane has been wronged. If she had truly been wronged she should sue them--but she can't--she signed the contract and it was not breached.

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Lane says in the interview, and has said consistently, that this is not about credit but rather to correct a misconception.

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Have to say that I do agree with Stecyk. The impression I received (after watching the entire interview - not just the 2 minute clip that was linked to) is that it took quite a bit of guts to put herself in that situation without the benefit of an army of lawyers and PR agents. Again, my impression from this (I admit I have not watched the movie, nor followed this closely) was that her current position evolved more from moral imperative than from an initial desire for vindication and acclaim. My understanding was that she was the one approached by a publication (which was probably delighted to seize what was for her at the time a simple factual statement about who did what, and spin that into a story) with the eventual request issued from the movie industry for Miss Lane not to continue to 'talk' to people for purely political reasons. I'm pretty sure my own response would have been similar had I been in her position at that point.

 

I think if the people in the movie industry had simply modified their own statements a bit in response to all this rather than clutching even tighter to the general impression that much of the dancing was accomplished by the actress, then I might have seen things differently. But I firmly believe that whenever anyone isn't being honest, no matter who they are, they ought to be called on it no matter the relationship or contract between the 'caller' and the 'called'. I'm probably very naive, but I also believe if someone is doing the work then they should be acknowledged for what they are doing - whether that is singing, dancing or throwing themselves off a cliff!

 

I'd be interested to know how her company is viewing all this and what level of support they are giving her, no matter how tacit.

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^ Really? I watched. I don't think Ms. Lane came off well. I was very distracted by her poor speech. I counted 19 "you know"s in her short conversation. The video was only about 2.5 minutes! It didn't do anything to change my mind--I think she should have just kept quiet. Now I just have an image of her as an undereducated individual who has sour grapes because she wasn't given credit. I still don't think the majority of fans believe that Natalie did most of the dancing--most don't care. All kind of "spin" happens with movies.

I am not sure how you arrive at the undereducated individual, but that's your image. It isn't mine.

 

With regard to your belief that most fans believe that Natalie did not do most of the dancing, you might wish to read the following article and view its enclosed video.

 

Natalie Portman's 'Black Swan' Dance Double Claims Filmmakers Are 'Lying'

 

Stecyk: I agree that Ballet is not about speech. However, the clip that is on the ABC website that was linked to this board did not show any dancing so I do not know what you saw. It just showed her speaking--and in that interview she did not come off well--an interview is about how you communicate and not just the message--the message gets lost and undermined if you cannot communicate well in 2.5 minutes. All I'm saying is from her actions up to this point, it seemed to me like sour grapes--the interview did not dispel that. I also did not say she wasn't intelligent. Note I said "undereducated."

Yes, you are correct. The video I initially linked to did not show any dancing. In the above video, there is a brief display of her dancing. I may have confused the two videos when responding.

 

Thank you for the citation about Emotional Intelligence. I am familiar with the book and its theories. All of this to me is irrelevant. We come from a different premise. I believe that what you sign on your contract is what you follow through with. If you don't like the credit you are going to get or the money you are going to get, then you dispute it or you don't take the gig. I think it is unprofessional and ungracious to complain during a gig or after a gig about these kinds of things that one has already AGREED to, especially in public. As far as Hollywood, they make up all kinds of nonsense about everyone. I think that is part and parcel to being involved in a film. Most of what she says is hearsay. I don't feel that Ms. Lane has been wronged. If she had truly been wronged she should sue them--but she can't--she signed the contract and it was not breached.

We do come from completely different premises. Never does Sarah Lane complain about her contract being violated. Hence there is no cause for legal action. When I viewed the initial video, I paid close attention to the first forty-five seconds and then again after a 1:45 where I found that Sarah stated her issues eloquently.

 

This isn't and never was about a legal issue, so I am unclear where or why that tangent arose.

 

Instead, it's about an honest portrayal of the work performed--the skill, effort, and years of dedication to perform the work. That's the heart of the matter.

 

Taking this out of the dance world for a minute, let's try a different scenario.

 

Suppose a wonderful and world reknown architect designed a beautiful building. She was paid handsomely for her efforts. Building was created. The owner, a wealthy businessman, then claimed that, after one year of intensive study, he designed the building with all its intricate details and displays.

 

Should the architect keep her mouth shut and allow others to believe that any smart person could accomplish in a year what has taken her a lifetime. Or should she cry foul?

 

Me, I'd cry foul, and loudly.

 

You and I see the world differently. So we're not going to agree. And that's fine. The world would be a boring place if we were all the same.

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luceroblanco

^ This happens ALL the time. I am not saying it is right, but when people are working as apprentices and also the low rung on the totem pole, they are often part of a team that does the work and gets NO credit. Most people suck it up and keep working until they get in the position to not have to work for someone else. You could go into every single corporation in the nation and around the world and you will find the "boss" or head of a team getting credit for the work of his/her subordinates. Someone else listed the case of Marni Nixon and other singers whose voices have been used for dubbing non-singing actors. For years, I as well thought Natalie Wood sang in West Side Story. Nevertheless Ms. Nixon did not raise a big stink about it and she is well known in the musical theatre and opera circles and respected for ALL that work she did (we all know about it and she has dubbed much more than just the few films mentioned) and the way she handled her career. Had she demanded more credit for her singing she would probably have not gotten work after her first film. I also think of the sculptress, Camille Claudel, who was Rodin's mistress and apprentice. Some claim that many of the great works attributed to him she actually did. There is even a movie about that. It was a well known practice in the art world that the apprentices did much of the work of the "master."

 

As far as the architect scenario, nobody in their right mind would believe that the businessman had designed the building--just as the MAJORITY of people do not believe that Natalie Portman could dance at the level of a professional after 2 years of classes at her age. (Maybe if she were 15 and extremely talented). But if an architect had signed a contract that said she was giving away ownership to that building, then I would say the businessman has the right to claim it as his.

 

Sarah Lane in her comments to the press has said that she was not properly credited for the dancing. My point is that she has been credited the way it was indicated in her contract. To me that is not a tangent, that is the CRUX of the issue. If you sign on as a double you do NOT get credit. Whether you dance 100% or 2%. The whole point of being a double is that the audience is supposed to believe you ARE the actor when you are doing those stand-in parts. As a double, your name is invisible. There is no misconception to remedy. Once you sign on as a double then the work you do is in SUPPORT of the actor and for the actor. It is not for YOU or to demonstrate YOUR talent.

 

And here's one more blog that discusses this controversy:

 

http://www.chinokino.com/2011/03/credit-wh...ue-natalie.html

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Sarah Lane in her comments to the press has said that she was not properly credited for the dancing. My point is that she has been credited the way it was indicated in her contract. To me that is not a tangent, that is the CRUX of the issue. If you sign on as a double you do NOT get credit. Whether you dance 100% or 2%. The whole point of being a double is that the audience is supposed to believe you ARE the actor when you are doing those stand-in parts. As a double, your name is invisible. There is no misconception to remedy. Once you sign on as a double then the work you do is in SUPPORT of the actor and for the actor. It is not for YOU or to demonstrate YOUR talent.

Again, she's not asking for credit. View the first 45 seconds and after a 1:45 of my first linked video. Hence your legal and contract tangent.

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I don't understand what misconception Miss Lane thinks she is correcting. Anyone who knows anything about ballet - or dance in general - knows that the intense training of over a year was merely enough (and necessary) to make her "blend in" as a dancer - mostly in her carriage, posture, and simple movements.

 

As far as the rest of the movie going public - most likely they really aren't interested in the nitty gritty of ballet training - they just want to enjoy a good movie. Why ruin the movie magic? It was no secret they used doubles - and in the dance magazines there was plenty of mention of them for the readers of those magazines who are actually interested in the doubles who were dancing.

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A lot of this was started by W. Perron's blog, which talked about the 'blackout', and then from there folks started to interview Lane.

 

As for whether or not Portman was considered a dancer -- we may know what it takes to train, but many in the non-dance world do not. In fact, the Royal Ballet was contacted to see when Portman would be dancing. I'm not making this up.

 

Here is a link to Perron's blog. The most recent posts are at the top, but if you scroll down to the beginning of March, you'll see in total I think 3 posts on it. I've followed this, and I truly believe it was instigated from other's, not by Lane.

http://www.dancemagazine.com/blogs/wendy

 

In addition, here is a link one of the many stories about fans contacting the Royal Ballet:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/fi...ie-Portman.html

 

Several friends have said to me that Portman deserved the Oscar because 'she worked so hard to learn how to dance'.

 

So, what's my point? Well, we all have different opinions on this -- even about whether we originally thought Portman was dancing or not, whether recent press around Lane/Lane's opinions are justified or not, etc -- and that there is naturally going to be some disagreement. We can't change that this movie was made, that Portman got the Oscar, that Lane is now speaking up (however instigated or not), etc... Hopefully we can all still be respectful of the individuals involved in how we represent them. But maybe it's now time to ask what direction we want this thread to go in, if any.

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luceroblanco

^ Good point--in which direction. I am not a professional ballerina and never have been. I went to ballet class today and have been back at it for nearly 2 years. What saddens me about this whole thing is that I feel like the ballet world (at least in the U.S.) missed an opportunity to capitalize on the success of Black Swan and draw more people into classes, into donating, and into performances. Actually in my city, where the PA Ballet (also featured in the film) is located, did get a lot of positive press about the film, about the choreographer and I think it did bring people into the theatre to support the PA Ballet in its last series of concerts. They tried to put a positive spin on it and use it for the benefit of ballet.

 

I cannot know for sure what generated all this negativity--whether in reality Ms. Lane feels she is doing something noble or it is self interest. But I do feel reading the blogs connected to the interviews and articles that most people outside the ballet world (and some within) do not sympathize with her. It may have increased more interest in the DVD of Black Swan but I really sense that had the ballet world (and of course not everyone is involved in this but Dance Magazine and Ms. Lane on the controversy and everyone else how they either rejected or embraced the film) dealt with this film in a different way it could have been a win-win for many studios, ballet companies as well as the people connected with the film.

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Okay, there are two things going on here -- I think first, that the 'ballet world' is handling the film -- but different entities (i.e., Lane) are handling it differently than others (your local company, and mine). I don't think we can homogenize all the responses to say 'the ballet world handled this badly'. Several professional dancers panned the film, yes, but other professional dancers raved about it.

 

Second, in my area, I would also say the company is using black swan for its own good -- it's a small company, but they are even doing a short version of Swan Lake next year (Black Swan, White Swan), mainly due to the film. Others have written on this board about the 'Black Swan effect' -- how they were seeing more dancers in their classes (I think that thread is on one of the adult fora). If we get sucked into the blogs and somewhat over-stated drama, it's perhaps easy to think that the only outcome is negative -- however, it seems that both of us, in our local communities, are seeing differently.

 

In any case, I don't have a horse in this race really, but for those who are impassioned by the effects of Black Swan, maybe the question of how the industry is benefiting/hurting is a nice way to move the discussion forward.

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Have to say that I do agree with Stecyk. The impression I received (after watching the entire interview - not just the 2 minute clip that was linked to) is that it took quite a bit of guts to put herself in that situation without the benefit of an army of lawyers and PR agents. Again, my impression from this (I admit I have not watched the movie, nor followed this closely) was that her current position evolved more from moral imperative than from an initial desire for vindication and acclaim. My understanding was that she was the one approached by a publication (which was probably delighted to seize what was for her at the time a simple factual statement about who did what, and spin that into a story) with the eventual request issued from the movie industry for Miss Lane not to continue to 'talk' to people for purely political reasons. I'm pretty sure my own response would have been similar had I been in her position at that point.

 

I think if the people in the movie industry had simply modified their own statements a bit in response to all this rather than clutching even tighter to the general impression that much of the dancing was accomplished by the actress, then I might have seen things differently. But I firmly believe that whenever anyone isn't being honest, no matter who they are, they ought to be called on it no matter the relationship or contract between the 'caller' and the 'called'. I'm probably very naive, but I also believe if someone is doing the work then they should be acknowledged for what they are doing - whether that is singing, dancing or throwing themselves off a cliff!

 

I totally agree LovesLabor. You said exactly what I was trying to say, thank you.

And, yes I guess I mis-stated when I said 'now it's moving to the dance world'. I know about 'Flash Dance'. I merely meant that they now have the capability to make movie 'magic' so seamlessly, that it takes an expert to even see where the true film ends and the movie 'magic' begins. Virtually no one would ever be able to tell who is who anymore and then it becomes a point that only the professional (computer graphics editor and the dancer) can ever tell. And the idea that the industry always tries to cover up the truth for the sake of movie 'magic' or fantasy, will always bother me.

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