The online trailer to David Kinsella's new film about Russian ballet, A Beautiful Tragedy, shows a young woman who is training at one of Russia's premier ballet schools. Against a background of piano music we see her beautiful, expressive face contort with effort as she works. And we hear--most extraordinarily--her panting. It's the sound of ballet, a sound you don't hear from the audience at a performance. It's the sound of a young athlete and artist working to her fullest capacity.
We also see her face, and the faces of several other young dancers in the film. They have the gaunt and haunted eyes, the protruding bones, of anorexia. According to Kinsella, dancers at this school in Russia must keep their BMIs down to about 14. These young, growing girls learn to punish themselves, to starve, to obsess about fat, all in the name of beauty. A particular notion of beauty.
I'm glad I'm not a ballet lover, because I don't think I could sit through another ballet without seeing these girls' faces and hearing, in my mind, the sound of that determined, exhausted breathing.