Philadelphia ballerinas featured in anticipated ‘Black Swan’

Sara Angle

This year, the holiday movie season features films like “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1,” “Tangled,” “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” “The Tourist” and “Little Fockers,” but there is one movie that sets itself apart from the others. Director Darren Aronofsky’s new film, “Black Swan,” premiered in New York last week and hits Philly theaters tomorrow.

In the supernatural ballet production, Natalie Portman stars as Nina, a ballerina at the New York City Ballet. Nina is preparing for the lead role in a modernized production of “Swan Lake” until a new member of the company, Lily, played by Mila Kunis, catches the eye of the artistic director

and threatens Nina’s secure position as Swan Queen.

The lead role entails the dancer to play the part of the Black Swan and the White Swan, but Nina, with her innocence and control, embodies the White Swan perfectly, while Lily, with her wild-child personality, channels the Black Swan. The two begin a fierce rivalry for the role, and Nina drives herself to achieve perfection by getting in touch with her darker side.

Here, the film takes a maleficent turn, blurring the lines of reality and horror-filled fantasy. Nina becomes increasingly consumed by the need to become everything she is not, or rather everything that Lily exudes. The once virginal, goody-two-shoes girl becomes a sexualized, psychotic wreck as the role of Swan Queen takes its toll.

“Black Swan” depicts the harsh, competitive world of ballet and the sad reality that perfection is virtually unattainable, even in the perfection-obsessed realm of dance. Nina’s desire for perfection leads her to hallucination and paranoia that threaten to destroy her career, and her relationship with Lily grows stranger.

The psycho-thriller leaves audiences questioning the divisions between what is real and what is fabricated and how that plays into their own perceptions of identity.

While the psychological turmoil of the movie takes the front seat to the dancing, choreographer Benjamin Millepied, a principal dancer at the NYCB, brings authority to the graceful moves of the film.

Philadelphians and those appreciative of the Philly art scene will be pleased to know that the dancers in “Black Swan” hail from the Pennsylvania Ballet, one of the country’s premier ballet companies, located in the East Falls section of Philadelphia.

The PA Ballet blog states, “To uphold the integrity of the ballet world they were crafting on film, ‘Black Swan’s’ creators searched for a troupe of dancers that could tell their story with the grace and fervor that Pennsylvania Ballet embodies.”

The 14 dancers featured in the film include Laura Bowman, Adrianna de Svastich, Lillian Di Piazza, Megan Dickinson, Lauren Fadeley, Holly Lynn Fusco, Ian Hussey, Rachel Jambois, Abigail Mentzer, Ryoko Sadoshima, Kaia Annika Tack, Sergio Torrado, Barette Vance and André Vytoptov.

The dancers traveled to SUNY Purchase last year to film studio and performance scenes for the movie. They also had the opportunity to attend the 19th Philadelphia Film Festival screening of the movie at the Annenberg Performing Arts Center in October.

To see the Pennsylvania Ballet dancers alongside Portman and Kunis, grab your dancing shoes, get ready to be disturbed and pay a visit to the Landmark Ritz 5 Theater this weekend in Center City.