The life and world of a ballet dancer is something most young performers aspire to have one day. And why not, after all it seems so elegant, so perfect. From the pristine costumes to the roars of applause as you take your final bow, it’s a world you can’t help but want to get sucked into. But what you don’t see, what any dancer will actually tell you, is the reality is far from always perfect and definitely not always elegant. That’s why Primeiro Bailarino (Principal Dancer) is simply sublime. It takes away the noise, draws back the curtain to quite ferociously show us the real life of a dancer.
Primeiro Bailarino (Principal Dancer), is Felipe Braga’s first documentary following the life of a dancer, Thiago Soares. The film maker has filmed other professional athletes before but this documentary I believe to be some of his finest work. He effortlessly strips back the noise and shows us the real life rawness encompassed in the life of a professional dancer. Not only does he strike the perfect balance between chaos and silence, he provides a real glimpse into the extreme highs and desperate lows of the life of Thiago.
Thiago, by his own admission, says that at first he was ‘unsure’ about doing such a documentary. Commenting that it was suggested at a really ‘dark time’ in his life. However I think that this was precisely the right thing to do because it shows the person behind the artist. Thiago is and has always been a dancer. From his hip hop days in Rio de Janeiro to his classical ballet performances at the Royal Opera House, it’s clear to see how far he has come. But this documentary does not just celebrate his career or applaud how hard he works. Rather it brings us back to Thiago, the man. We see him in pain, stressed, angry, nervous. You would think a professional would be rid of those butterflies but Braga’s brilliantly captured each human moment. That is what makes this documentary so good. We so often forget that there is a man behind Romeo, but this film brings us back to earth. Back to what matters.
Split into six chapters, we see people from all parts of Thiago’s life as they continue to shape and mould him into the dancer he will be tomorrow. We go back to Rio for a short stint, see the raw roots of Thiago. Truth be told I would have liked to see more on this. I feel like this would have been a nice addition, allowing us to see another side to Thiago. Where did he grow up? What about his hip hop beginnings? I feel this would have added and given me a heightened sense of who Thiago became. Hip hop to ballet is definitely a jump, I just want to know more. But in that ‘scene’ if you can call it such, we see the real passion and fire for dance come out. Not only as dancer, but teacher, choreographer, producer, mentor and friend. There are a million things pulling Thiago in one hundred directions. But once the music starts all the other noise stops. That, to me, is testament and truth for any dancer; it makes things better if only for a while.
It’s in giving snippets of the performance, a taste of what the whole show may have been like, that is so fantastic here on Braga’s part. He doesn’t slow the pace down even for a moment, even though it certainly feels that it relieves the pressure at that moment, your heart still thumps and you find yourself drawn into the dance. Simply beautiful. Similarly every clip and cut from rehearsals where maybe not every step is perfect, where Thiago is pulled up for something, or told to ‘try it this way’, reminds us that he is never done learning and neither should we be. For while this documentary brings us the reality, the pain, the passion and the problems, there is so much more to be said.
That makes it all the more powerful. We get our glimpse behind the curtain, we can see everything is not perfect and yet, it’s still magical. It’s escapism and truth perfectly intertwined told through one man’s voice. Of course, if Braga were to document other prolific ballet dancers different variations of the story will be told. But, for Thiago’s story, for his life, Primeiro Bailarino is nothing short of an excellent exposé of what it truly means to be a Principal Dancer. It’s hard work, it’s blood, sweat and,
at times, I imagine literal tears. It’s for those exact reasons dancers will continue to dance and Brava’s shed light on all elements with that powerful message leading us to the end, at least for now.
Title: Primeiro Bailarino (Principal Dancer) Cast: Thiago Soares, Alessio Carbone, Lauren Cuthbertson, Sarah Lamb, Marianela Nuñez Director: Felipe Braga Choreographer and Movement Director: Deborah Colker Venue: Regent Street Cinema NEXT SCREENING DATE: January 21st 2019 Venue: Linbury Theatre, Royal Opera House, London Time: 7.30pm Duration: Two hours Tickets: www.roh.org.uk