Dancing on Glass
Dancers face intense pressure; language, suicide, nudity.
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Dancing on Glass
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Dancing on Glass is a 2022 Spanish drama about the grim lives of ballet dancers and the psychological toll their discipline takes on its young professionals. A star ballerina commits suicide as the story begins. Bare-chested dancers of both genders are shown, and a homoerotic subtext lies beneath the relationship between two troubled ballerinas. An injured girl is seen naked as she's bathed by her mother. One dancer suffers from bulimia. Dancers rehearse despite painful injuries on bloody feet. Someone deliberately sets broken glass in the shower to cut the foot of an unsuspecting dancer. Bloody toes are shown. Language includes "f--k," "s--t," "damn," "bitch," "ass," and "hell." Adults drink alcohol. Dancers smoke cigarettes. In Spanish with English subtitles.
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What's the Story?
DANCING ON GLASS presents the world of professional ballet as a depressing and disagreeable milieu. Here desperate dancers jockey for prominence and recognition, fearing and sabotaging rivals as they dwell in paranoia. And that's to say nothing of the grueling physical toll the dancing takes on their young bodies. In this case, Irene (Maria Pedraza of Netflix series Money Heist and Elite), chosen to play the lead in her ballet company's Giselle, also contends with the unsupportive parents and sister she lives with. None of them think much of the work she does, and her father reminds her that she'll be too old to dance by the time she's 30. Her friend and fellow company member Aurora (Paula Losada) has an overbearing ex-dancer mother who relives her dancing life by micromanaging and infantilizing her daughter. Norma (Mona Martinez), the company's head, is a cruel, tactless, manipulative, and unforgiving taskmaster, exploiting her dancers' insecurities and playing up rivalries to maintain control. The two girls form a close friendship that provides emotional safety from those who either don't understand them or are trying to control them. Tragedy ultimately consumes several characters.
Is It Any Good?
Dancing on Glass doesn't go for straight horror the way that other grim cinematic look at ballet, Black Swan, did, but as depicted here it's an icy, gloomy world. That dancers propel themselves on bloody feet and strained muscles, exhausted and bulimic, is almost an afterthought. Physical pain is the least of it. Norma admits she manipulates her dancers, pressing them to self-isolate and playing into their body dysmorphia and eating disorders. Fierce and even demented self-obsession is what Norma imposes on her dancers, pretending it's all in the name of great art. Norma orders the seamstress to make Irene's costume smaller, putting more pressure on the already bulimic dancer to be thinner. In a dress rehearsal, Irene nearly faints, probably because she can't expand her chest sufficiently to breathe as she exerts herself. Going home for these dancers is as bad as being at work, with a comically unsupportive father who disdains dance, and a creepily hovering mother who misses the days of her own ballet career and relives it through her daughter.
Despite convincing performances, it all makes for a depressing slog through the lives of girls who feel misunderstood, overworked, and terrified that they're expendable and replaceable. Even among the top dancers with the showcase roles, that insecurity is emphasized daily by Norma as she demands nothing less than perfection. In addition to presenting such a dismal world, the movie is slow and plodding, and almost entirely devoid of the joy that great art can create.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the relationship between parents and their dancer children. What point of view does the movie seem to have about parental influence on dancers' lives?
Do you think passion for art justifies the mistreatment of dancers? Why, or why not?
Do you think the ballet mistress could have used kindness and compassion to get good performances out of her dancers? Why, or why not?
- On DVD or streaming: April 8, 2022
- Cast: Maria Pedraza, Paula Losada, Mona Martinez
- Director: Jota Linares
- Studio: Netflix
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 137 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: February 17, 2023
Our Editors Recommend
The Turning Point
Well-acted '70s dance drama has sex, mature themes.
Magnificent, macabre thriller too intense for young teens.
The Red Shoes
Bittersweet but enthralling ballet drama.
'80s dance drama has some violence, profanity.
For kids who love dance
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