I know, I’m always rhapsodizing – I even rhapsodize about rhapsodizing. But now there’s another must see film. My dear friend Marilyn took me to the Hot Docs cinema last night to see a new documentary, Beyond Moving. And it is.
It’s about Siphe November, a young boy in one of South Africa’s desolate township villages who takes dance classes with Fiona, a fierce British ballet teacher, is noticed by a Canadian family visiting there, and ends up at Canada’s National Ballet School – described in the film, and now I believe it, as the best ballet school in the world.
Partly the film is simply a celebration of his magnificent human body, its expressive twists and turns, the boy, the young man soaring, flinging, leaping, all fluid legs and arms. He’s small of build, which is a disadvantage for a ballet dancer, and he is of course the only black face on stage. And he’s spectacular. Amazingly, his older brother is also a star dancer, in London. The scene where the older sits weeping in the audience, watching for the first time his kid brother dance a lead role with the National Ballet, a role choreographed for Baryshnikov – unforgettable. As are the scenes where Siphe goes home — to a village, a country, where everyone dances all the time.
But the story is also about the dedicated Fiona, how hard for her that her star pupil flew away. His extraordinary life, his success, is due to her; she’s still in the dusty township, at the end with terminal cancer, while he and his brother are achieving their dreams on the other side of the world.
The director, Vikram Dasgupta, and Siphe himself, now twenty years old, were there last night to answer questions. It was thrilling. Dasgupta was asked how he chose the material to include, because he’d been following the story for so many years. He told us it took him two years to edit the film, that he had to decide what the core story was – not race, but love of dance and the drive to succeed. Siphe was asked if it was hard for him to be so far from home, so young. He said yes, but “Dance is my home.”
Hope you have a chance to see this beautiful documentary.
PS Eleanor just called to ask if I’m free to go to the opera tonight; the person she was going with is sick, as was the person supposed to go to the film with Marilyn. Another advantage of singledom: I am regularly offered the chance to fill in, giving me a feast of options — too many, in fact. First world problems. In any case, I’m not free tonight, it’s the dance party. I may not dance like Siphe, but I’ll dance. The feast continues.