Film Scouts Reviews

"Suzanne Farrell: Elusive Muse"

by Karen Jaehne

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Oct. 5, 1996

"God sent her to me," declared the legendary choreographer George Balanchine after watching Suzanne Farrell try out for his ballet "Don Quixote." Farrell, then a sweet young thing from Cincinnati, promptly pirouetted from the corps de ballet to center stage. With Mr. B. guiding her every move, the magically gifted teenager was transformed into one of the greatest ballerinas of all time.

Offstage, however, the married, middle-aged Mr. B and his enchanting young star began to make tabloid headlines as their professional association deepened into a romantic attachment. With a tear-stained face, the now retired Farrell recalls what it was like having her first love "be this God" in a touchingly candid documentary.

Directed with loving care by Anne Belle and Deborah Dickson, "Suzanne Farrell: Elusive Muse" provides fascinating insight into this May-December backstage romance. For one thing, Farrell's mother comes across as a comically ambitious stage mom. When the ballerina decided she needed to break off with Mr. B, her mother was not pleased. The mother admits during the film that she tried to change her daughter's mind by reminding her that Mr. B "wasn't just any old man ..he was a living working genius."

Farrell ultimately escaped Mr. B's control by marrying fellow dancer Paul Mejia. Her mother "cried very loudly the whole time." But nothing was as painful to endure as Mr. B's revenge. Farrell poignantly recalls that awful moment when Mr. B's assistant walked into her dressing room and told her that she was being replaced.

The documentary contains a treasure-trove of dance footage, priceless excerpts that confirm Farrell's fluid grace and her electrifying stage presence. The dancer is shown in her new role as a teacher, repeating the instructions of her beloved mentor. At the post-screening press conference, Farrell admitted "I didn't know that the film would conjure up all those emotions again." What the film captures so beautifully is the true complexity of this famous creative partnership. It also underscores what Farrell describes as "the desperation of the whole situation."

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