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Ballets Russes

(2005) **** Unrated
118 min. Zeitgeist Films. Directors: Dayna Goldfine, Daniel Geller, Dan Geller. Cast: Ann Barzel, Irina Baronova, Yvonne Chouteau, Yvonne Craig, Frederic Franklin.
The utterly charming dance-history doc Ballets Russes traces the legendary ballet company from its 1909 inception to its 1962 dissolution. Clearly, the Ballets Russes, in its various incarnations, represented an explosion of talent and creativity. Founded by Russian impresario Serge Diaghilev, the French company with the Russian flavor hosted such choreographers as George Balanchine, Michel Fokine, and Léonide Massine. Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí contributed costume and set designs. And then were the dancers, on whom directors Daniel Geller and Dayna Goldfine focus. Now elderly but still vibrant, the dancers tell amazing stories, backstage dramas of the Ballet Russes' rise and fall at the hands of mercurial impresarios. The dancers are remarkable characters, and Geller and Goldfine observe them still plying their trade in their 80s and reuniting in New Orleans in 2002. Several have passed on since filming their interviews, which makes this assemblage of stories and archival film all the more essential. By leaps and bounds, it's the best documentary of 2005.
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