Woman in the Mirror, a film by Tatyana Bronstein
"It is amazing what goes into making something effortless."
A woman of two worlds, born of a world of perfection, elegance, beauty and discipline, brings her style and grace to a group of disparate ballet students. Bound by the constraints of our modern, “everyone gets a trophy” society, she shows them the way… a way so different… so unusual… a way to the perfection of effortless motion… “Woman in the Mirror” .
This is the mantra that adorns the wall of the Koltun Ballet School studio as students, ages 14-18, prepare for class. The instructor, Alexandra Koltun, is a former principal ballerina of the Boston Ballet and now the owner of one of the top ballet schools in the country. She teaches as she was taught in her homeland, Russia, with technical precision and a firm hand. As the adorning epigram implies, there is much hard work expected of her students. Alexandra insists upon full engagement during the class where every step is meaningful. Everyone is working very hard during the 5 hour ballet practice at the school. In the middle of the studio, working even harder, their teacher, Alexandra, demonstrates the movements.
Precision... Quiet power… Controlled strength... Repetition, Repetition, Repetition.
The film will follow the teacher and five students through a year and a half of intensive training, through many long days. The students are fiercely determined and struggle through pain, sweat, and tears to reach their goals. They are driven, but, by whom? Is it the parents, who sacrifice their time and money to give their children a chance to be a dancer, a chance to pursue their dreams… or, is it the teacher, who drives the students to accept nothing less than perfection in their performance?
Alexandra Koltun graduated the eight-year program at the Vaganova Ballet Academy and became a soloist of the Mariinsky/Kirov Ballet theater. On October 15, 1991, while on tour in Washington DC at the Kennedy Center, Alexandra defected from Kirov and relocated to the United States where she obtained her citizenship. She continued her career as a principal dancer of Boston ballet. Her husband, Alex Lapshin, and co-founder of the Koltun school relocated to the United States in 1990. In New York, he took classes with Stanley Williams at the School of American Ballet and was introduced to Rudolf Nureyev who personally coached him.
The film is an honest and insightful look into their lives and the life of their teacher, who fights for their success. Can her strength of character and wisdom lead a group of diverse ballet students in their pursuit of “Effortless Motion” to another level… to another world... This is a story of success and failure… a story to be revealed by the mirrors that surround Alexandra and her students, in her studio, a story of what it takes to be a Ballet artist, what is a “Life in a Mirror”.Why is this topic and program important, timely or relevant? In this time of economic uncertainty and political strife, the United States must play to its strengths. America has succeeded, and achieved its present position of global dominance, because it has always been good at importing the talent it needs. We are a country where generations of family stories all begin the same way—with sacrifice and risk in pursuit of the American dream, transcending where the journey began. Those qualities live in our shared DNA and make us all uniquely, and proudly, American. History
When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 and travel restrictions eased, many Russian dancers started looking westward to the United States. They wanted more artistic opportunity, and American audiences wanted to see the “pure” Russian dancers onstage. With their artistry and experience, it was easy for them to find work in American companies. They all, as students, had gone through the eight-year Vaganova curriculum, which sets strict standards for each age group.