VOD film review: Ballet Boys
Portrait of teenage friendship7
Matthew Turner | On 15, Sep 2014
Director: Kenneth Elvebakk
Cast: Lukas Bjørneboe Brændsrød, Syvert Lorenz Garcia, Torgeir Lund
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Directed by Kenneth Elvebakk, Ballet Boys is a Norwegian documentary that follows three 14 year old schoolboys as they attend ballet classes in Oslo and aspire to become professional dancers. Over the course of four years, they experience various joys and disappointments, while attempting to balance their home lives and school lives with the rigorous training their chosen profession demands.
Of the three, Lukas is the most accomplished and an offer from London’s Royal Ballet school brings both financial worries and an agonising decision over leaving his two best friends behind. By contrast, Syvert is the least committed to dancing and seems a lot more interested in girls, musing over the fact that it’s great to get to dance with a girl you like, but it makes the pressure of messing up that much worse. Meanwhile, Torgeir is the typical shy, spotty, inarticulate teenager in interviews, but a confident and expressive dancer once his pumps and tights are on.
What emerges most strongly from the film is a sense of tightly-knit, enduring friendship between the three boys, bonded by their mutual passion in a way that, presumably, alienates them from their peers at school. Their relationship, tinged with occasional moments of melancholy, forms the emotional focus of the film (more so than, say, their successes or failures as dancers) and is genuinely moving.
However, the film is also frustratingly vague in certain areas: for example, Asian-Norwegian Syvert laments early on that he wishes he was “just Norwegian”, the implication being that he has suffered either rejection or racism as a result of his mixed-race heritage. However, the film never explores this issue and it’s dropped as quickly as it’s raised. On a similar note, the film reveals tantalisingly little in the way of background detail for the three boys, with their home and school lives only briefly sketched, if that. There’s also curiously little in the way of actual dancing and the competition sequences (potentially a rich area for drama and tension, as well as an opportunity to really show what the boys are capable of) are disappointingly handled.
Ultimately, this is an engaging and frequently charming documentary but it’s more successful as a portrait of teenage friendship than as a look at the pressures of training to be a male ballet dancer.