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Written by: Communicator StaffNovember 13, 2015

Underwhelming ‘A Ballerina’s Tale’ Does Disservice to Incredibly Talented Copeland

Quality reviews focused on alternative films shown at Fort Wayne’s Cinema Center. A column by Zachary D. Elick

“A Ballerina’s Tale” provides an interesting glimpse into the life of a professional ballerina by fixing its gaze on Misty Copeland, the first black female principal dancer at the prestigious American Ballet Theatre. The documentary chronicles Copeland’s rise to stardom within this elite dance community, while also briefly touching on her notable presence in popular culture. Though, “A Ballerina’s Tale” mostly focuses on a transitional period in Copeland’s career when she was in recovery from shin surgery.

Director Nelson George, most well-known for being an author and cultural critic, starts his film with a provocative angle: exploring the racial bias of the American ballet culture.

Traditionally, ballet dancing has not only been restricted to women with slim figures but also those with white skin, according to the film. For instance, one veteran dancer explains how she was told when she was younger that an ideal ballerina is the “color of a freshly peeled apple.”

In “A Ballerina’s Tale,” based upon the various testimonials (mostly from retired, female dancers of color) we get the impression that Copeland’s success has brought a good deal of excitement to the ballet world — not only because of her skin color, but also her relatively curvy figure.

However, we are not shown much experiences of other female dancers of color who are currently working in the ballet community. We never see the extent or scope of Copeland’s influence on future or current generations, which seems like a journalistic blind spot.

Anyhow, this angle is unfortunately dropped midway through, leaving the movie without much momentum.

This is not to say Copeland is a boring subject matter. The movie never lets the audience get to know her on a personal level. We are shown much of her exquisitely precise body motions and given a few peeks at her energetic disposition, but this is not enough to keep viewers engaged.

Regrettably, a lot of this film seems amateurish, as if the footage was cobbled together without much vision or sense of storytelling. In fact, “A Ballerina’s Tale” feels like it would fit in more on cable television than in a movie theater. Not only does this fact result in a less-than-stellar viewing experience, but it also does a disservice to the incredibly talented Copeland.

Underwhelming ‘A Ballerina’s Tale’ Does Disservice to Incredibly Talented Copeland