dance on glass (The Crystal Girls) lies somewhere on the spectrum of Black Swan and Whiplash. Maybe not as darkly intense as the aforementioned titles, but its story speaks to a larger truth surrounding the performing arts, or the arts in general, where the highest can be a desolate and torturous place.
Director: Jota Linares
Starring: Maria Pedraza, Paula Losada, Mona Martinez, Marta Hazas
Streaming on: Netflix
The quest for perfection is daunting, forcing the artist or performer to become one with the form. It may seem spectacular on the outside, to a thrilled audience, but what the individual endures behind the scenes is rarely understood. dance on glass has ballet and those who perform it at the highest level as its central subject. The Spanish dance production company at the helm of the film considers itself one of the best around, being helmed by an old-school veteran in Norma (Mona Martínez). For someone like her, the artistic act is everything. She is ready to do anything to extract a worthy performance on stage from the ballerina she has chosen. Problem? Sure! Psychologically damaging? Sure! Coaches, mentors and guides cut from the same cloth argue that only such methods make everyone the best. The operative question here is, at what price?
Maria, the lead ballerina in Giselle’s dance production, commits suicide during an untimely visit to the United States. Her death is shrouded in mystery at her home in Spain. Irene (María Pedraza) makes an unexpected replacement for the lead role, leaving a majority of the cast stunned. Ruth, who everyone assumes would have taken over, gets the cold shoulder. The demands of the performance begin to weigh on Irene physically and mentally, even as she turns to another reluctant dancer, Aurora (Paula Losada), for comfort.
With a relentless Norma breathing down her neck, seemingly envious peers everywhere, and a family that doesn’t quite understand what’s really at stake, Aurora becomes Irene’s only safe space. Aurora has her own cross to bear. Her mother, a former ballerina herself, lives vicariously through her, wishing for her daughter everything she couldn’t achieve. Irène and Aurore are a case where opposites attract, the first extroverted and the second introverted. Both are also aware of the dangers that come with such a demanding profession. They share a lot of complexity and intensity. Aurora teaches her friend a trick for dancing without pressure, dancing while erasing the outside entirely, a technique that works for her.
dance on glass raises more than a complex set of topics to mull over. Tyrannical mentors going too far to bring out the best in their wards, insistent parents living out their unrealized dreams through their children, friendship being the only true place of happiness, being few, but most overwhelming is the sacrifice individual required to make art at the highest level. Through all the rigorous workouts/rehearsals (and unhealthy weight management regimens) and magical ballet routines, the film doesn’t help but ask you that ever-present question: is it worth it, in the end? ? María Pedraza and Paula Losada give the film depth and vulnerability through their respective roles.
The characters’ challenges are different, but understanding each other makes them whole. Norma sees the close bond as a distraction and attempts to isolate her star dancer under the guise of protection. Mona Martínez’s steely and cold performance comes together in a powerful scene where her character is confronted by Irene’s angry mother. The latter believes that Norma’s militant methods are destroying her daughter the same way they destroyed Maria. “Your daughter knew how I was from day one. The whole company is aware. That’s why they give everything to be part of it. They know we make them better here. Art should be an obsession. Otherwise, it’s not art… It’s entertainment, and we’re not here to entertain. We have the monkeys at the zoo for that,” she said, with an icy, unblinking gaze.
This exchange tells you everything you need to know about her as a teacher and the standards she aspires to set. Uncompromising and scary in equal parts! His anti-heroic portrayal may not quite match JK Simmons’ terrifying Terence Fletcher’s Whiplash, but it makes a burning impression. Whether these methods are good or not, how far one is willing to be pushed for the sake of his art, how far a person is willing to let go for the pursuit of perfection, are all pertinent questions that will be , no doubt, debated. for all time.
dance on glass puts them in a plausible way and forces us to reflect on the state of the artistic world. For that, he deserves a lot of credit!