Directed by Douglas Watkin. With Stephen Page, David McAllister, Ella Havelka, Suzanne Duffy. In October 2012, Ella Havelka became the first Indigenous dancer to be invited into The Australian Ballet in its 50 year history. It was an announcement that made news headlines nationwide. A descendant of the Wiradjuri people, we follow Ella's inspirational journey from the regional town of Dubbo and onto the world stage of The Australian Ballet. Featuring intimate interviews, dynamic dance sequences, and a stunning array of archival material, this moving documentary follows Ella as she explores her cultural identity and gives us a rare glimpse into life as an elite ballet dancer within the largest company in the southern hemisphere.
Either Ms. Havelka didn’t want to personally, didn’t have permission to speak of it via elders, or she didn’t know about some of the deeper uses of dance within her culture. It just wasn’t covered here at all. I’ve been fascinated by Lynne Kelly’s research programme and in particular I’m reading my way through her most recent text Songlines with Margo Neale about the uses of song, dance, and arts within indigenous cultures in Australia. I’m curious how much time she spent in country to learn what she did. Was it just a few weeks for some exposure, or was there a deeper learning experience? Is she passing that experience along to her students? Was some of it filmed, but lost in editing?
Ella Havelka did speak about the significance of her feather tattoo within her culture, so there was at least some representation of associative memory here. The comment was simply a passing one (and sadly focused on covering it up with makeup to hide it for ballet). The discussion of the feather just didn’t connect with the greater body of knowledge I’m sure is hiding just behind it.
I was a bit proud that my 9 year old ballet enthusiast wasn’t able to discern what made Ella different despite that being a large part of the story arc. Still she enjoyed the dancing and journey anyway.
Note: This film was renamed Ballerina for airing via Amazon Prime.