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A pair of ballet-dancer biographies

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  • Robert Schmidt
    http://www.sfbg.com/entry.php?entry_id=4889&catid=110&volume_id=317&issue_i d=323&volume_num=42&issue_num=05 Raising the barre The American Indian Film Fest
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 1, 2007
      http://www.sfbg.com/entry.php?entry_id=4889&catid=110&volume_id=317&issue_i
      d=323&volume_num=42&issue_num=05

      Raising the barre

      The American Indian Film Fest kicks off with a pair of ballet-dancer
      biographies

      By Cheryl Eddy

      Marking National American Indian Heritage Month, the American Indian Film
      Festival kicks off with a pair of ballet-dancer biographies. Of course, you
      know one of 'em is gonna be about eternally elegant George Balanchine muse
      Maria Tallchief — and indeed, Sandra Osawa's Maria Tallchief will have its
      world premiere at the fest. Praised as the first American prima ballerina
      and a standout in an art form that had, until her rise to prominence in the
      1940s, been largely European, Tallchief brought audiences to their feet and
      critics to tears. She married Balanchine, and their creative collaboration
      continued even after their divorce (she wanted a baby; he didn't) — a
      notable result of which was her role as the original Sugar Plum Fairy in
      his Nutcracker.

      Maria Tallchief — bound for PBS after its festival screening, a fact that's
      evident in its straightforward style — spends ample time contextualizing
      its subject's importance not just as a dancer during one of ballet's most
      historically significant periods (stateside, anyway) but also as a Native
      American woman proud of her Osage heritage. Black-and-white archival
      footage illustrates her considerable gifts, with testimonials from peers
      and observers (and Tallchief herself) recalling the thrilling life of a
      talented artist.

      More contemporary is Gwendolen Cates's Water Flowing Together (also bound
      for PBS), which focuses on recently retired New York City Ballet star Jock
      Soto, one of the last dancers to work with Balanchine. Part Navajo Indian,
      part Puerto Rican, Soto — who also happens to be gay — is shown from his
      teens through his 40s, earning praise along the way from seemingly every
      ballerina he ever partnered, as well as from choreographers like
      Christopher Wheeldon, who saw him as an inspiration. For a guy who was
      initially told he didn't have the body of a dancer (and whose dad bought
      him blue fishnet tights for his first ballet class), Soto's impact on the
      dance world is shown to be immeasurable.

      The 32nd annual AIFF also features fictional narratives (including a
      ghostly tale set at South Dakota's Pine Ridge Indian Reservation), shorts,
      and the American Indian Film Institute's American Indian Motion Picture
      Awards Show, at which the fest awards will be presented and Native
      musicians and dancers will perform.

      AMERICAN INDIAN FILM FESTIVAL

      Nov. 2–7, $5–$10

      Landmark Embarcadero Center Cinema

      One Embarcadero Center, promenade level, SF

      Nov. 8–10, $5–$10

      Palace of Fine Arts

      3301 Lyon, SF

      (415) 554-0525

      www.aifisf.com
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