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Produced by Ian McLaren, Leonid Manaker and Sally Bochner;
directed by Douglas Jackson
National Film Board of Canada, 1993. VHS cassette,
50 min., $26.95. Distributed by the NFB.

Subject Headings:
Léonard, Stéphane.
Ballet dancers-Canada-Biography.

Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up

Reviewed by Patricia Miller

Volume 22 Number 4
1994 September

When I watch a professional ballet dancer perform, I often find myself thinking of the long years of training required to achieve that status. Imagine, then, a man in his early twenties about to give his graduating performance on the fabled stage of the Kirov Ballet, a young man who started his training in ballet only three years previously.

Stéphane Léonard was a twenty-three-year-old Montreal factory worker when, out of curiosity, he accompanied a friend to a ballet class. Three years later he was on the cusp of launching his professional career in ballet. The film picks up Stéphane's extraordinary story in the last half of his graduating year at the Vaganova Ballet Academy in St. Petersburg. We witness the dedication, hard work and sheer guts of this youthful dancer, his life as a student in Russia, and the bond that developed between Stéphane and his first teacher, Russian expatriate Natasha Izbinsky, who travels from Montreal for his début performance.

It is a wonderful story and a wonderfully polished production, including some marvellous footage of another graduate of the Vaganova Academy, Baryshnikov. Not just for ballet  aficionados, The Making of a Dancer is compelling and inspiring film for all.

Highly recommended for all libraries.

Patricia Miller is Manager, Whalley Branch, Surrey Public Library, in Surrey, British Columbia

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