For his 38th film in a career spanning more than 40 years, master documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman turns his attention to one of the world’s greatest ballet companies, the Paris Opera Ballet. Observing daily classes, rehearsals, and performances, the camera roams the vast Palais Garnier opera house, the company’s opulent home: from its chandelier-laden corridors to its labyrinthine underground chambers, from its light-filled rehearsal studios to its luxurious theater replete with 2,200 scarlet velvet seats and Marc Chagall ceiling. La Danse – Le Ballet de l’Opéra de Paris devotes most of its time to watching young men and women — among them Nicolas Le Riche, Marie-Agnès Gillot, and Agnès Letestu — rehearsing and/or performing seven ballets, including: Genus by Wayne McGregor, Paquita by Pierre Lacotte, The Nutcracker by Rudolf Nureyev, Medea by Angelin Preljocaj, The House of Bernarda Alba by Mats Ek, Romeo and Juliet by Sasha Waltz, and Orpheus and Eurydyce by Pina Bausch. La Danse will air as part of THIRTEEN’S Great Performances series on PBS stations nationwide on June 16, 2010 at 9 p.m. (check local listings).
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Frederick Wiseman, widely praised for his observational documentary films, has had a long and prolific career. His oeuvre includes Titicut Follies, High School, Basic Training, Public Housing, Domestic Violence, and Ballet (on the American Ballet Theater). Critic Philip Lopate has called Wiseman “the greatest American filmmaker of the last 30 years.”
Of his desire to make a film about the Paris Opera Ballet, Wiseman says, “Since movies are about movement, I wanted to make a movie about a group of dancers and choreographers who represent the highest level of achievement in the conscious use of the body to express feeling and thought. I have great admiration for the dancers, choreographers, administrators, and technicians at the Paris Opera Ballet and welcomed this opportunity to film them at work.”
A Zipporah Films, Idéale Audience, Opéra National de Paris Production, in association with THIRTEEN for WNET.ORG, La Danse – Le Ballet de l’Opéra de Paris is directed and edited by Frederick Wiseman, with sound by Wiseman and photography by John Davey, and produced by Pierre-Oliver Bardet, Frederick Wiseman, and Francoise Gazio.
Great Performances is funded by the Irene Diamond Fund, the National Endowment for the Arts, Vivian Milstein, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, public television viewers, and PBS. Major support for the telecast is also provided by The Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Arts Fund. For Great Performances, Bill O’Donnell is series producer; David Horn is executive producer.