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Review: Ballet Boys

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In an art form so intensely dominated by females, Norwegian director Kenneth Elvebakk has focused his lens on the less-scrutinised male side of the competitive ballet world in his first feature length documentary – the two prior film credits to his name amounting to 52 and 55 minutes, respectively.

Cameras follow Lukas, Torgeir and Syvert as they grapple with the usual trials and tribulations of growing up, alongside their ambitions to become world class ballet dancers. For one, dance is the end goal whilst the others must make tough, life-altering decisions about their futures at a time when everything around them is rapidly changing. Consideration of injuries, school grades and money all play a part in defining their futures, as the gap between childhood and adulthood grows ever smaller.

The documentary largely focuses on Lukas; a talented dancer who has the world at his feet and must make a very difficult choice on where to continue his ballet studies. Staying with his friends in Oslo is the safe, and free, option, but when an opportunity at the prestigious Royal Ballet School in London is on the cards, Lukas must make the decision that will ultimately shape his future. Despite the obvious sounding clichés that could afflict this documentary and these paths they choose, the filmmakers have managed to side-step this completely and allow the boys to tell their own story in their own way.

Perhaps the most intimate relationship we are given access to is that of the boys’ friendship away from the dance floor. Particularly in the dressing room, the three have formed a very close bond, and watching them share not only laughs but their hopes and dreams in their little sanctuary is captivating. Their ability on the dance floor is their extraordinary talent, but away from the barre and mirror-covered walls they are ordinary teenage boys worrying about school, fitting in, parents and girls.

In Ballet Boys, Elvebakk has created a perfect balance between some beautifully choreographed dance sequences and the personal lives of these teens in his look at the boys’ fascinating journey.

Ballet Boys is in UK cinemas on 12th September.

Follow me on Twitter: @chafferty

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