Ballet 422 is a documentary showing a young dancer, Justin Peck, choreographing his third ballet, coaching the dancers on what he wants, and engaging with sets and lighting, music, and costume crew. If one enjoys the ballet, but does not know much about how a work is produced, the documentary, directed by Jody Lee Lipes, is very interesting. It is also remarkable in that Peck is one of the “lower” members of the Corps, and none of the current dancers have ever had their work performed by the company. He chooses to name it “Paz de la Jolla”, based on a 1935 musical, “Sinfonietta de la Jolla”, which serves as the musical accompaniment.
There are several, to me, remarkable aspects of Ballet 422, one being that all of Peck’s interactions with dancers and crew are entirely positive, with almost no conflict. This stands in marked contrast to the Black Swan fictional movie, which contained so many conflicts some people avoided seeing the film at all. Peck does apparently have a low-key personality and perhaps has some kind of knowledge about people management, so perhaps that accounts for so much good will. It could also be that the filmmakers simply chose not to show any of the tensions that actually did occur.
Another aspect that I find curious—although I think it is characteristic of all ballet companies—is the habit of calling the dancers “boys” and “girls.” These are all young men and women, so I would think they would protest what sounds like condescension.
I enjoyed watching this film, but was regretful it did not show at least an abridged version of the actual ballet. We see/hear snippets, but I would have liked to see more of the final production.
A very nice touch at the end is showing Peck preparing to go onstage to dance, and then showing stunning outdoor evening shots of Lincoln Center, where the American Ballet Theater performs.
For big ballet fans—an inside story of a work in the making.
Grade: C By Donna R. Copeland