The Big "Black Swan Controversy" - What you need to know...

Monday, May 2, 2011

 "I only care to speak the truth. The truth is that no one, not Natalie Portman, or even myself can come anywhere close to the level of a professional ballerina in a year and a half. Period" - Sarah Lane
Actual photo of Lane with motion-capture dots. 
While I am late in writing this, some people may not be following the Black Swan scandal as much as I. I hope this article will enlighten you!

Let me sum up the whole 'Sarah Lane vs. Natalie Portman' fiasco:

In the film Black Swan, Natalie Portman plays a ballerina. She is shown dancing in the film, both full-body shots and waist-up shots. Interviews and most behind-the-scenes footage have depicted Portman as having danced nearly all her scenes. Watch almost any interview with Portman, and she talks about how difficult it was losing weight and training for the film. While relatively little was said about the dancing, the public still was (mis)lead to believe that every dance scene in the film was danced by Portman herself.

20/20 Segment  - Excellent little documentary. Really helps you understand why Lane (and ballet) deserves more credit. Includes beautiful footage of Lane dancing, and interview with her, and interview with Wendy Perron, the DANCE Magazine blogger who helped bring this controversy to light.

Then Natalie on an Oscar for Best Actress. This is when the sparks began to fly. Many balletomanes and dancers already knew of Sarah Lane - the ABT dancer who acted as Portman's dance double - and were a little irked when Portman didn't acknowledge her work in the Oscar acceptance speech, even though she mentioned camera men and such. Dancers knew that Portman could not have possibly danced all the scenes in the film with only 18 months of dance training, and that the real ballet artistry that enthralled viewers was the work of Sarah Lane.

In the weeks that followed, more information came to light that Fox may have been deliberately keeping the small amount of dance work that Portman actually did under the rug. Sarah Lane came forward with the statement that Portman only did about 5% of the dancing, not the 75% previously claimed by Darren Aronofsky, the director. Lane also said that she was told not to take any interviews before the Oscars. There has been a heated back and forth debate over this.

 Recently, a special effects reel was released online, intending to be for the special features of the DVD. In the original, they showed clips of Sarah Lane dancing across the floor, and then having her face "replaced" with Portman's via computer. Facial replacement is not a new thing, and has even been used in Lord of the Rings. The actress wears tiny dots on her face during filming so the special-effects crew can replace her face later with another. However, in a re-released reel of the special effects used in the film, all the facial replacement scenes were cut.

I've heard from quite a few of my peers and other people that Sarah Lane is just being a whiny bitch because she didn't get her dues, and she is supposed to be hidden because that's her job. I won't lie, but this view makes me fume with rage. Sarah Lane deserves to be recognized - the art of ballet deserves to be recognized. To be a dance double is very different than being a stunt double, since ballet demands not only sheer physical effort (far more than most realize), but artistry, grace, and poise.

There is simply no way in hell that anyone can dance ballet (in pointe shoes no less) like in the film with only 18 months of training, even if that training was intensive. Ballet takes years and years of daily work. While dancers know this, most of the public does not.

I highly encourage people to educate themselves on this subject to see what a travesty this is towards Sarah Lane and the ballet world in general.

Wall Street Journal article by Sarah Lane  - If you read a single article, let it be this one. Written by Sarah herself, it beautifully illustrates the work needed to be a real ballerina.

"My only wish is that Natalie, Darren and certain others who worked closely on the movie, could have grasped the beauty and the heart of true ballet. If they had, they would have advocated for this art more and given the real dancers the credit that they deserve."  - Sarah Lane
Sarah Lane as Princess Florine in "The Sleeping Beauty", ABT
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