maddy ✨’s review published on Letterboxd:
the ballet world is one of horror.
as an ex-ballerina myself, this was way too close to home. in the world of ballet, we are taught to always strive for perfection. so you do, however unattainable that perfection may be. you slowly kill yourself over it. you find yourself becoming the worst version you can be – because ballet teaches you that you have to be perfect or else you’re a failure. you become envious of other dancers. you turn catty over a solo. you find yourself greedy for the limelight. you’d kill for it – success. but the only thing you’re really killing is yourself. it starts with starving yourself. the cracked skin and bloody sores on your feet. the broken toes that you still dance on even though inside you’re screaming in pain. and then you’re dancing with injuries you hide from your company and they slowly get worse because you don’t want them to give up on you or think you’re a liability. it’s one of the cruelest forms of torture, but you do it because you love it.
i’ve never been able to explain it to a non-dancer, why i used to put myself through the constant pain and all of the competitiveness. but for those that know, well... you just know. there’s such a beautiful feeling in being able to move your body in a way that makes you feel as if you could express every human emotion and desire there is, to feel that free even in a style of dance that is a lot of the time about control, and being able to tell a story through it. but you have to be a certain level of mad to put yourself through some of the shit that comes with being ‘successful’ at ballet, or any kind of art, really. and we see that slow descent into madness that Nina goes through in Black Swan.
when i sustained an injury bad enough that i could no longer dance at the level i was, a part of me was relieved. relieved that i no longer had to feel like i was in constant competition with others, or in constant competition with myself. i no longer put myself through unnecessary pain for the art. i was no longer killing myself day in, day out. i still dance, i still go to two or three classes a week for various dance styles, but i no longer feel an unbelievable pressure to be perfect. i was just lucky that i have many passions in life that didn’t make me feel as though ballet was all there was, all that i was, or am.
as i’m writing this i realise i’m probably not painting the best portrait of what it’s like to be a dancer, and while this film definitely gave me war flashbacks and i could relate to it a tonne, dance is not all that bad. for every bad thing i could list, there are two more things that are good about it. it just doesn’t help that Black Swan is literally about killing yourself for the job, and becoming the role. i love dance, with my whole heart. and i love this film. i thought it was stunning. i’d watched it in bits and pieces but never watched it properly and it’s amazing to me that i hadn’t kicked myself into gear to watch it all sooner. definitely a cinematic masterpiece, in every way.