Rick Nelson and Claude Peck dispense unasked-for advice about clothing, etiquette, culture, relationships, grooming and more.
CP: It's one of those prematurely mild March Saturdays when le tout Twin Cities digs out a tank top and some Rollerblades. So why are we ducking into a darkened movie house at the matinee?
RN: Because in order to create "Ballet 422," documentary filmmaker Jody Lee Lipes camped out with his camera inside the exalted House of Balanchine for a few months, and that's all I needed to know. Of course, I'd have gone if it turned out to be footage of New York City Ballet balletmaster Peter Martins reading aloud from a Labanotation guidebook.
CP: Well, as far as I could tell, we never lay eyes on Mr. Martins.
RN: I know. Weird, right?
CP: The story centers on 27-year-old City Ballet hoofer Justin Peck as he oversees creation of a new ballet, the company's 422nd.
RN: An extraordinary statistic. That's roughly six new ballets a year, for 67 years. Anyway.
CP: We learn in a subtitle that Peck has shown promise as a choreographer, but that he is a lowly member of the corps as a dancer. Ouch.
RN: Very ouch, but then again, ballet companies are even more hierarchical than the English upper classes. The film could have used more subtitles. Peck, who could supplement his income as a V-neck T-shirt model, casts three principal dancers for his spirited "Paz de la Jolla," which my twisted mind turns into "Paz de la Renta" — but we don't learn their names until the end credits roll.
CP: Methinks the director may have gone too far down the fly-on-a-wall, no-talking-heads path. Left largely unexplained are such teensy things as "What inspired the ballet?" and "What's it all about?" Or am I being too literal?
RN: Perhaps it's a "Show, don't tell" kind of situation, mirroring ballet's wordlessness. But it leaves a void in the moviegoing experience.
CP: It was fun to see Peck interact with star ballerinas, the rehearsal pianist, the orchestra conductor, costume makers and lighting designers.
RN: Especially Cameron Grant, the company's extraordinary pianist, who generously rolled up his sleeves in the rehearsal studio and knocked out that tricky Martinu score. And then he gave — on camera, of course — some sage and well-timed advice to Mr. Peck.
CP: Peck dons suit and tie for the premiere at Lincoln Center. Just when I figured he was heading to a post-show reception with fur-clad donors, he races backstage to get into his leotard to dance another ballet that same night.
RN: Yeah, those City Ballet corps dancers are the equivalent of the dance world's ditch-diggers.
CP: I loved it when Peck dared to ask the City Ballet conductor if he might have a quick word with the orchestra. You'd have thought he had requested to pee on the maestro's mother's grave.
RN: That look he shot our choreographic hero recalled the fear-inducing side eye you've lobbed in my direction over the years.
CP: Only when you deserve it.
Twitter: @claudepeck and @RickNelsonStrib