I was researching VFX breakdowns to give updated examples on the first day of the introduction to Maya course I will be giving tomorrow and I came across this Black Swan VFX featurette.
Ballet was my first passion. I trained to become a professional until I was 19 and still enjoy taking a few courses now and then. As a former ballerina, a VFX artist and a big fan of Aronofsky’s work, I was the best audience for this movie. And I absolutely adored it. It’s the first time a movie about ballet feels real to me. The environment, the interactions, life in the ballet world… they really nailed that.
This is why I feel so sad to learn about all this controversy. They created such a beautiful work of art, why spoil it with lies? Because even though she trained like crazy for a year, there is no way Nathalie could ever master the actual dancing. Her Nina character is supposed to be a prima ballerina in one of the top ballet companies in the world. So even the basic ballet exercices have to be perfectly executed (and are). Not many people realize, but even the smallest things are really really hard to master, not even mentionning the hardcore technical stuff like the last dance of the black swan. I trained for 10 years and never got even close to that level of technique! For anyone who knows anything about ballet it is just obvious that they used body doubles and head replacements. I didn’t even think twice about it. So why not give full credit to the dance double? I understand that Sarah Lane would feel used. Ballet is such an unrecognized profession already. I don’t think anybody realizes how much dedication, hard work, pain and passion goes into being a dancer.
What’s more, that does not take anything away from Nathalie Portman’s work. I usually hate it when actors play dancers. It never feels right. But she worked on just the right things: her posture, the way she walks, the way she holds herself. She is very convincing as a ballet dancer. Also all the head and arm movements are hers: that is quite a feat already. She certainly worked very hard to achieve all that. But she is an actress, not a ballerina. And that’s the whole point. She doesn’t need a twisted marketing scheme implying that she managed to dance as well as a professional ballerina in just 1 year to win an Oscar. What is important is her performance as an actress. And what a performance! She was incresible, mesmerizing, breathtaking! She more than totally deserves that Oscar even though she never did a fouetté.