Ballroom Dancer (2 stars)

Ballroom Dancer

Downbeat documentary about former World Latin American Dance Champion Slavik Kryklyvyy

This sombre and self-important documentary, about former World Latin American Dance Champion Slavik Kryklyvyy’s attempt to regain his position after a decade out of the spotlight, aims to show the tough, serious and painful flipside to what happens on the public stage. But filmmakers Andreas Koefoed and Christian Bonke pursue this downbeat approach so intently that they effectively sap the life out of the subject. Only a fraction of the film’s 80 minutes feature any actual dancing, with the directors preferring to try and capture the fraught mood before and after Kryklyvyy and his long-suffering partner’s shows. They offer an interesting contrast between the passion and enthusiasm that the dancers’ express on the public stage and the mechanical, straight-faced way they prepare and put the moves together behind the scenes, but although Kryklyvyy is blessed with chiselled matinee idol looks his constant glum introspection is not the stuff of movie magic, and his tyrannical behaviour towards his partner does nothing to make him more appealing as a subject.

Koefoed and Bonke forego conventional documentary techniques in favour of something that feels closer to narrative fiction, with no-one speaking directly to the camera and no voice-over, just occasional onscreen titles. This is refreshing for a while, but becomes problematic as their camera finds its way into some fairly intimate moments, and the very fact that no-one is acknowledging the camera invites questions over how much they are performing for it, and how much has been set up before the camera was switched on.

Kryklyvyy’s overly dramatic behaviour really needs to be counterpointed, as the directors do in a funny sequence that emphasises how long he spends fixing his hair before a show, but a latter scene where he breaks down is played straight, and will most likely provoke more (unintentional) laughter. Fans of Strictly Come Dancing looking for their next fun fix should best move along; there’s nothing to see here.

Selected release from Fri 18 Jan.

Ballroom Dancer Movie Trailer - featuring Slavik and Anna

Ballroom Dancer

  • 2 stars
  • 2011
  • Denmark / USA / UK / Ukraine / Russia / Hong Kong / Japan / Germany
  • 1h 18min
  • Directed by: Christian Bonke/Andreas Koefoed
  • Cast: Slavik Kryklyvyy, Anna Melnikova
  • UK release: 18 January 2013

Self-important documentary about former World Latin American Dance champion Slavik Kryklyvyy’s attempt to regain his position after a decade out of the spotlight. Only a fraction of the film features actual dancing; Kryklyvyy's constant glum introspection and tyrannical behaviour make him an unappealing subject, and…