The film shadows Justin Peck, wunderkind choreographer of the New York City Ballet, as he undertakes the Herculean task of creating the company’s 422nd original piece. Following the creative process from its embryonic stages to its highly anticipated premiere, BALLET 422 is a powerful celebration of the skill and endurance of New York’s most talented dancers—as well as those who remain hidden in the wings.
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★★★★ review by Matt Singer on Letterboxd
I'm not a big ballet guy, but I love the way Jody Lee Lipes shoots dancers. And this doc, about choreographer Justin Peck and his work creating the 422nd ballet in the history of the New York City Ballet, also has one whopper of an ending. The performance is lovely, but it's what happens after the performance that really blew my mind and helped recontextualize the whole film as a piece about the artistic process, and how much *work* it is. This one really sneaks up on you.
★★★★★ review by Sam Van Hallgren on Letterboxd
This is just so totally my jam. If you run into me a year from now and ask me if I've seen anything good lately, I will say "Have you seen Ballet 422?" Also probably 5 years from now.
Has been added to the Recent Docs About Creative People Doing Creative Stuff Hall of Fame along with Bill Cunningham New York and Every Little Step.
★★★★★ review by Marian on Letterboxd
the PROCESS! the MINUTIAE! the LEGS!!
★★★★ review by Sean Gilman on Letterboxd
Ballet 422, which opened my Monday, owes a very great debt to Wiseman, especially his dance films (Ballet, La Danse and Crazy Horse). Director Jody Lee Lipes follows the Wiseman template (albeit with a very few explanatory title cards, kind of necessary in the beginning to set the story, less so to mark time as the clock ticks on our hero's deadline. The film follows 25-year-old dancer/choreographer Justin Peck as he has two months to put together the New York City Ballet's 422nd original production, his first choreographic work on such a large scale. As in the Wiseman films, the movie proceeds from early rehearsal footage through the final performance, with shots of the backstage workers (particularly the wardrobe department) interspersed and pillow shots (prominently close-ups of shoes, again) providing syncopating breaks in the narrative. Again as in Wiseman there are no interviews, the cinematic apparatus remaining invisible (though there is a moment when the cameraman hilariously realizes he can see himself in a rehearsal mirror and quickly reframes his shot). The rehearsal footage is great, as is Peck's production itself, brisk and lively and charmingly danced by the company, particularly the three leads (Tiler Peck, Stirling Hyltin and Amar Ramasar). The company appears to have a warm and friendly camaraderie: it's much funnier than the Wiseman films (at one point one of the dancers in the chorus is worried about her outfit. A wardrobe woman tells her: "Girl, you got nothing to worry about: if it comes out, it's cute.") The best revelation comes at the end, though, when we see Peck make his way backstage, down an empty hall to his dressing room. He changes clothes and begins putting his makeup on. He's performing in the third performance of the night, as part of the chorus. Like the generic title indicates: despite all the artistry and inspiration and fun and music and dance, the ballet is, as much as anything else, work.
★★★★ review by Tessa Racked on Letterboxd
A bit dry with all the technical terms, but so short and quickly paced that it barely matters. I'm still learning how to appreciate dance-- it's only been recently that I've started to feel like I Get It in general as an art form-- so watching Justin Peck's process of piecing together this elaborate choreography was both illuminating and still feels like magic. The restraint this film shows is also quite notable, especially in comparison to tropes we've come to expect from reality tv. A dancer who can't quite grok the choreography, another who has a pain in his foot that he's been ignoring, these all sort of happen as micro-vignettes and then we move on with not so much as a glance at the camera.
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