The Heart Dances - The Journey of The Piano: The Ballet

The Heart Dances - The Journey of The Piano: The Ballet


Director Rebecca Tansley (Crossing Rachmaninoff) examines the Royal New Zealand Ballet adaptation of Jane Campion classic The Piano.... More

"Czech choreographer Jiří Bubeníček and his twin brother and designer, Otto are stars in the European dance world, creators of vital, innovative contemporary ballets. Rebecca Tansley follows them from Prague to Aotearoa as they take up an invitation from the Royal New Zealand Ballet to expand their adaptation, made in Germany in 2015, of Jane Campion’s film. Tansley’s documentary feasts on the sheer beauty of the Bubeníčeks’ work – the music, the theatricality, the costumes, the suite of achingly expressive pas de deux at the heart of the piece." (New Zealand International Film Festival)Hide

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Documentary director Rebecca Tansley (Crossing Rachmaninoff) follows The Royal New Zealand Ballet’s preparations for new ballet The Piano. Czech brothers Jiří (choreographer) and Otto (designer) Bubeníček, charged with expanding their 2015 German adaptation of the 1993 Kiwi cinema classic for the stage, are quickly embroiled in the thorny question of Aotearoa’s premiere ballet having no Māori dancers.... More

Tansley’s access to her subjects, Simon Raby’s cinematography and Thomas Gleeson's editing, coupled with an excellent soundtrack, all work wonders to hold attention, as the creatives wrestle with questions of costumes and choreography and the cultural quandary inherent in the story they are trying to tell.

The usual making-of tropes are here, from watching hundreds of hopefuls audition for the lead child role of Flora (for which Anna Paquin won an Oscar), to the artistic team under pressure with just weeks to go and “big holes in the score.” Where things get really fascinating though are in watching dancer, choreographer, and Māori cultural advisor Moss Patterson politely but firmly negotiate the quagmire. Whether pointing out the inappropriate use of a haka, or expressing how he finds “dancers playing Māori… a little bit strange”, Moss quickly becomes an endearing protagonist.

Juxtaposed with choreographer Jiří’s explanation: “For me dancing is what we express. We are all dancers”, it’s jaw-dropping to see how little advance thought went into the ramifications of casting in this international collaboration; right from an initial Skype-call in which the NZ Ballet can’t comprehend a casting brief because it’s written in Czech. Expertly produced, and fascinating for all the wrong reasons, it’s these elements that make The Heart Dances more than just another peek behind-the-scenes, rather it’s an object lesson in how creative and cultural partnerships need to be carefully considered.Hide

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The Press Reviews

  • Tansley got excellent access at short notice and, with cinematographer Simon Raby, captured some of the most enlightening sequences of dancers at work... Full Review

  • The Heart Dances is not the film I was expecting to see. But it is a compelling, engaging and often spectacular look at a real-life drama. Very recommended. Full Review

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