Ballerina Breaks Down 11 Iconic Ballet Scenes | How Real Is It?
From “Red Sparrow” to “Black Swan," ballet dancers have appeared in a score of Hollywood movies, f But what’s a reallife ballerina’s take on the most memorable of these dance scenes? Watch prima ballerina Isabella Boylston react to 11 famous ballet performances from film and TV.
Isabella has danced at the renowned American Ballet Theatre since 2005, and has been been a principal dancer — the highest rank within the company — since 2014. She took a break from rehearsal to sit down with us and pick apart ballet scenes from iconic dance movies such as “Suspiria,” “Step Up” and “Center Stage,” rating each scenario based on its accuracy.
Find out about why dance doubles are so important for making Hollywood actors look like the real deal; what “Suspiria” gets right about the art of dance; the reason ballerinas actually do wear leg warmers, like Jennifer Beals in “Flashdance;” and why the animated ballerinas in “Leap!” have major style (even though they probably wouldn’t dance to pop music in the 19th century). Plus, why real ballet dancers aren’t really the tortured artists you often see depicted in movies.
Isabella gives us her thoughts on why hiphop and classical ballet make for a great pairing. She reviews the combination of street dance, ballet, and other elements in Julia Stiles’ Juilliard audition from “Save The Last Dance,” and the fusion of breakdancing, ballet, and jazz in beloved MTV romance “Step Up,” starring Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan. She also gives a dancer’s opinion on why Kanye West’s ballet moment works so well in his short film “Runaway” (based on songs from the rapper’s fifth album, “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”).
Besides starring in worldclass ABT productions like “Sleeping Beauty” and “Romeo and Juliet,” Isabella danced as Jennifer Lawrence’s body double in the spy thriller “Red Sparrow.” She talks about what it’s like to be a ballet double for an Alist actor; gives us a behindthescenes perspective on how they filmed that graphic leg break; and discusses how realistic it is for an injury that dramatic to happen onstage. Plus, she gives her opinion on why ballerinas — like Jennifer Lawrence’s character Dominika — could actually make for great spies.
Using her expert knowledge of all things ballet, Isabella analyzes the inspiration behind Mac’s dance in “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”; why Rob McElhenney’s performance is so impressive; and how his dance partner, actual ballerina Kylie Shea, helped him look like a professional. She also breaks down the classic ballets that figure into the storylines of countless films — like Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake,” at the center of Darren Aronofsky’s “Black Swan,” Stravinsky’s “The Firebird,” the ballet inspiration for “Red Sparrow;” and “The Nutcracker,” which forms the basis for the plot in “Leap!” starring Elle Fanning and Maddie Ziegler. Last but not least, Isabella reveals why the 1948 classic “Red Shoes” is her favorite ballet film of all time.
In addition to being an ABT principal, Isabella is the founding artistic director of Ballet Sun Valley, a festival bringing ballet to her hometown in Idaho. She’s been featured in publications like Vogue, The New York Times, and Harpers Bazaar. She’s also starred in a Nike commercial and has collaborated on ballet lines for a number of other brands, including Nike, Bobbi Brown, Clarins, Chanel, Wolford, Olay, and Norma Kamali.
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