Ballet 422

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Ballet 422 Movie Poster Image
Dance fans will love behind-the-scenes look at ballet.
  • PG
  • 2015
  • 75 minutes

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Kids say

age 14+
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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Hard work, dedication, and discipline are strong themes. Sometimes the cost of the dancers' focus is physical pain (some have bandaged feet or sore bodies needing a massage).

Positive Role Models & Representations

Justin Peck was only 25 when the documentary was filmed; he's incredibly gifted at what he does, but he's also willing to take suggestions and collaborate with the dancers and the lighting and costume folks to create the best dance he can without sacrificing his vision. All the dancers work hard to make Peck's vision come to life; they're so disciplined that they dance through their pain.

Violence

The dancers suffer physical pain.

Sex
Language

A couple uses of "s--t."

Consumerism

Since it's a documentary, the brands aren't really product placements, just what the ballet's company dancers, staff, and choreographer use/own: iPhone, Apple computer, Steinway piano, Band Aid, and more.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Ballet 422 is a documentary that chronicles the journey of the New York City Ballet's young choreographer in residence, Justin Peck, as he creates a new ballet for the company's Winter 2013 season. Audiences interested in dance will appreciate the behind-the-scenes look at how a new ballet is created, from the choreographer's first steps (recorded by iPhone, so he can watch and revise later) to early practices to the endless rehearsals all the way to opening night. There's very little iffy content in the film, save for a couple of muttered exclamations of "s--t," but it's not really meant for young viewers who won't understand the process. And without a dramatic storyline, littler kids might get bored in a way that older kids (especially dance lovers) won't.

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What's the story?

BALLET 422 chronicles the creation of a new ballet for the storied New York City Ballet. In 2012, Justin Peck, a then 25-year-old member of the company's Corps de Ballet (the pool of non-soloist dancers) was invited to be the company's choreographer-in-residence, with a commission to create new ballets. The film, directed by Jody Lee Lipes, captures Peck's two-month process of developing his third new ballet for the City Ballet. To make Paz de La Jolla come to life on stage, Peck collaborates not just with his three principal dancers (Sterling Hyltin, Tiler Peck -- no relation, and Amar Ramasar), but also the costume and lighting designers, the conductor, and ballet master Albert Evans, who's making sure the dancers are up to snuff.

Is it any good?

Tweens and teens with a love of dance (any kind of dance) will find find this movie fascinating. Ballet films and shows tend to feed audiences' baser instincts: They're usually full of resentment and jealousy, parents who push too much, or friends who don't understand why a boy would want to dance. But Ballet 422 is devoid of any melodrama ... or drama at all, for that matter. No one so much as raises an eyebrow at anything Peck says; the most pushback he gets is the conductor hesitantly saying yes when Peck asks to address the orchestra, or the head costume designer quietly reminding him that having such a diverse palette of costumes could take away from the uniformity of movement. Otherwise, there are no egotistical outbursts, and Peck himself is depicted as simultaneously intense and mellow. He's definitely got a vision, but he's not tyrannical about collaborating; he's quick to agree to a dancer's suggestion to change a move, for example, and he demurs from a patron's remark that his name is up there with Balanchine's and Robbins'.

For dance-loving audiences with patience and a fondness for insider information, Ballet 422 is a rare look at a young choreographer's role. Peck isn't a diva choreographer -- or at least he wasn't during the making of the film; he's since been promoted to a soloist position in the ballet and continues to be a sought-after choreographer for the City Ballet and other companies. He seems to know that he's a better choreographer than he is a dancer, and it's clear he dazzles ballet aficionados as a wunderkind choreographer in a way he doesn't as a member of the Corps. While Ballet 422's pace is a bit too slow and the story too observational for young kids to appreciate, older kids will enjoy it.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about behind-the-scenes documentaries. Does watching Ballet 422 make you look at a ballet differently? Were you surprised at how many people it takes to put on a ballet performance?

  • How do documentaries compare to other movies about dancing and ballet? What do you prefer -- nonfiction stories about dancers or fictional ones?

  • What did you learn about the process of creating a ballet? How is a choreographer's job different than a dancer's?

  • The dancers talk a lot about their bodies when they speak to the costume designers. Why does ballet encourage and require an extraordinary amount of body awareness?

Movie details

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