by Dane Youssef
It's often been said many times by many people that the defining name in professional ballet is Mikhail Baryshnikov. Somehow after seeing him dance, I can't help but agree. And if Misha himself is in fact the God of Ballet, than Natasha is Ballet's Goddess. The finest ever to put on tights and toe shoes.
A woman who may not only rival this icon, but perhaps... even stand above him.
As I write this, the prima ballerina absolutta is 68 years of age. She is further evidence (as if we honestly needed any) that the greatest ballet dancer of this generation or any other will always be a Russian.
Vaslav Nijinsky, Rudolph Nureyev, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Natasha Makarova, Alexander Godunov and Vladimir Malakov. All the best of the best. Native Russian bastards, all.
The truckload of statuettes she got for, including the Tony itself are all certainly deserved. As is the title of "prima ballerina absolutta" she was awarded, along such fellow ballerina monuments as Dame Margot Fonteyn, Pierina Legnani and Galina Sergeyevna Ulanova.
Natasha has always seemed the girl who was born for the ballet. With her long willowy tree-branch body and limbs, precise hands and feet, fine-boned features, prominent eyes and cheek-bones, full pouty lips... she's always had an almost impossible connection with the music.
The film chronicles on her brief partnership with Royal Ballet Brit extraordinaire Anthony Dowell, who did as much Britain's ballet as Dame Margot Fonteyn did. They even dance the legendary "Romeo & Juliet" together that was tailored for Nureyev and Fonteyn. They dance divinely, with Dowell being less graceful and more strong and prominent than those in the role before him, including Nureyev himself. Dowell expresses the kind of strength, stature and passion we'd expect from a classical leading man. The ideal partner every girl in ballet class fixates herself on. A true "ballerino."
As great as her partners are, they're pretty much just assistants. They can barely hold their own around Natasha. The ballerinas are usually the stars in this craft. They've dominated it and owned it even more than the Russians have. But Natasha is so damn breathtaking, so light, so with the music... she almost makes the men around her unnessicary. Only Dennis Ganio seems to really come close to matching that kind of majesty Natasha herself has. The two often seem like they're about to float away.
The film mostly chronicles recorded events of her best and most popular work.
The only time we actually hear any talk in the whole thing comes from prima ballerina absolutta goddess herself. She may be lighter than air, but her accent is as thick as the snow in Siberia. It's no wonder the dear lady prefers to let her dancing speak for itself. I myself personally was astonished to hear her say, "Take off pointe shoes, put high heels and dance...."Dancing en pointe is one thing... but heels?
I've heard a lot of horror stories about those pointe shoes.
Compared to Chinese foot-binding. To walking on hot coals. To tap-dancing on tacks and broken glass. But with an especially beautiful outcome. Women like to wear heels when they want to feel confident and sexy, but to dance in them? But of course, Natasha pulls it off. In "On Your Toes" and "Begin the Beguine," sure enough--the little lady's in heels. Dancing ballet-ballroom style in heels, with grace and style not even Ginger Rogers ever pulled off.
Strangely missing in action is fellow prima donna ballerina extraordinaire and Russian native Mikhail Baryshnikov. The man is not only the quintessential name in ballet, he was one of the best to partner Natasha. They brought a fire and triumph to dance that only such Russkie angels such as they could.
It's true, this isn't as probing and as revealing about the overall life of it's subject like Nureyev's "I Am A Dancer" or Margot Fonteyn's "Margot" or the film about their collaborative work "The Perfect Partnership."
"Natasha" doesn't do any deep digging and just shows it's starlet's highlights. But Natasha herself is so damn great at what she does, that... "Natasha" is still worth seeing. For any fan of "Natasha" or ballet itself.
"Natasha" is a well-made film, beautifully shot and put together with the kind of professionalism and respect deserved for a ballerina deity such as Natalia Makarova.
It follows her, her on-stage career not limited purely to her ballet. For a ballerina to make it professionally, to make it to a principal. To make it into the history books. To make it as "prima ballerina absolutta."
Natasha herself has clearly earned such a tribute.
--For The Russia Prima Ballerina Absolutta, Dane Youssef
SPECIAL NOTE: Stay all the way to the finale.
After the final curtain call, Natasha decides to show us what a sweetheart and class act she truly is. She meets a pre pubescent ballerino and finds him cute and sweet as a puppy and suggests a potential partnership in the near future. She even gives an inspired callback from "On Your Toes." We remember her and Tim Flavin.
She shows encouragement to the very next generation. It almost seems like next coming of the Fonteyn-Nureyev partnership.
After watching this movie, you feel like you might just feel blessed beyond words... to meet her.