The film “Black Swan” starring Natalie Portman opens this weekend. Several Philadelphia dancers appear alongside her in the dark psychodrama about the backstage world of ballet.
The producers of “Black Swan” tapped 14 dancers from Pennsylvania Ballet to fill out a fictitious New York ballet company. One of them is Lauren Fadeley, who says the film takes the normal psychological challenges of ballet and dramatically exaggerates them.
“It’s not as extreme as you’ll see in the film — we’re not that crazy — we’re pretty crazy but not that crazy,” said Fadeley, who admits a career spent on her toes is not normal according to most people. “I did like that it shows the hardships it takes to be a professional dancer — your feet hurt, you have injuries, but having the mental side as well.”
Dance films tend toward hip hop, tap or modern but not ballet, with the notable exception of “The Red Shoes” (1948), Robert Altman’s “The Company ” (2003) and “Center Stage” (2000) which Fadeley describes as “cheesy.”
The sweat and hard work behind ethereal and effervescent ballet are rarely shown.
“Our art form is so physical — that’s what most movies miss,” said Holly Fusco, a 10-year professional. “It looks so effortless, but we put in so much effort to make it look effortless. I’m still waiting for a film to capture that.”
While performing “The Nutcracker” in the evenings, Fusco and the rest of the Pennsylvania Ballet are rehearsing “Swan Lake” during the day, the same dance that is Portman’s undoing in the film