2015 Los Angeles Film Festival Review: MAIKO

IMG_0278Once upon a time, knee surgery for a torn meniscus (cartilage) in my left knee was desperately needed. Following a successful surgery, I was walking immediately, but was advised not to remove the dressings for three days.  As the dressings were unwrapped, it was apparent my knee was swollen beyond recognition.  Having made my living as a dancer,  I cried buckets of tears at the prospect that I would never dance  onstage again.  

My love affair with dance had been a long and prosperous one.  Just the thought of  never be onstage again was heartbreaking for me. Filled with remorse and regret, it was easy to slump into depression revealing a side of my personality that I had yet to meet.

Needless to say, less than a year later, not only was I dancing, but touring the country with a Tony winning musical as a principal performer. All that physical therapy, determination and desire to be onstage again kicked my depression and doubt in the butt…which allowed me to keep it moving in a positive light and continue my career onstage as a performer.

What does this have to do with MAIKO?  MAIKO and I have love, desire and determination of being onstage in common. My desire was to dance on Broadway and Maiko’s was to be a prima ballerina.

MAIKO’s (which is Japanese for dancing child) sole dream was to become a prima ballerina in one of the most difficult classical pieces in ballet – Swan Lake and to have her parents watch her triumph in that performance.

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Tough, but loving, Maiko’s Mom put a great amount of pressure on her and offered no comforting words.  Maiko has no regrets about her Mom and knew she could not return to Japan as a failure.  She also recognized that a ballerina’s career is limited to 20 years at best, so she had to make sure that she had that hunger to drive one to succeed and pushes you beyond your limitations.

Shortly after being named the lead soloist in every ballet for the next year at the Norwegian National Ballet Company, Maiko discovers she is pregnant.  Does she continue to dance or step aside, be a Mom and let someone else take her place?

Just like in the infamous ballet film “The Turning Point”, a ballerina’s greatest fear is being replaced and never having the opportunity to regain her former glory.  Maiko learns that having a baby comes with an immense amount of joy, but for the body it is one of the greatest challenges she will ever have to conquer.  

Watching her struggle and juggle motherhood with ballet was fascinating to watch and many times I held my breath with eager anticipation and excitement for Maiko to persevere. Especially when she experiences a less than stellar dress rehearsal on performance day.

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As an audience member, not knowing the outcome, I found myself praying for my girl to hit those 32 forte turns as the Black Swan without a hitch! 

 In their debut documentary, filmmaker Åse Svenheim-Drivenes explore the roles of mother and daughter with the traditional image of a ballerina. Early home videos of Maiko’s family in Japan are woven together with present day interactions between Maiko and her mother, emphasizing the sacrifices the family made to make Maiko’s dreams of ballet a reality. Elegant performance footage is balanced with moments of strenuous training, but Maiko’s grace can barely conceal the strain of continuing to persevere as the National Ballet’s top dancer – especially as her body changes.

MAIKO:  DANCING CHILD is inpsiring, heart-wrenching and beautifully captures everything that makes ballet such a wonderful artform.

If you missed the first screening of MAIKO: Dancing Child at the Los Angeles Film Festival, you have an opportunity to catch it again on June 16 .  Log onto www.lafilmfest.org  for tickets and more…

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