Dancing on Glass: ballet is more than ‘dying swans and madmen’

We love the genre but are ballet dancer’s voices and bodies being authentically represented on our screens?

Netflix has commissioned more than ten new dance movies over the past year. The ballet-focused Dancing on Glass is the most recent, directed by Jota Linares and produced in Spain this year. So what’s the enduring appeal of ballet on screen – and is this genre in any way representative of real life?

The Red Shoes (1948) is widely regarded as the film that made the genre. It follows the story of Victoria Page (played by Moira Shearer) a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale ballerina who joins the world-renowned Ballet Lermontov, named after the ballet master, who tests her dedication by making her choose between her career and love, ultimately dancing herself to death. The director, Michael Powell, said himself that the central theme of the film was ‘about dying for art … that art is worth dying for’.

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Leila Lois is a dancer and writer of Kurdish and Celtic heritage. Her poetry, essays and reviews have been published in Australia, New Zealand, USA and Canada by Southerly Journal, LA Review of Books, Honey Literary Journal, Right Now, Delving Into Dance and more.