Netflixable? Ballerinas flirt with self-destruction — again — “Dancing on Glass”

It’s safe to say that ballet doesn’t recruit every fresh generation dancers from the movies about the art form, which all try to show the insane level of self-sacrifice and many go out of their way to depict it as the most self-destructive culture in the arts.

From “The Red Shoes” to “Black Swan,” dance comes off as a literally back-stabbing, injurious and maddening calling for any girl who takes it up and falls under its spell.

“Dancing on Glass” is a Spanish take on that theme that adds little new to the messaging but gives us enough of “Giselle,” the ballet that is its focus that it clocks in as the longest.

The “girls” gather at the National Classic Ballet to hear the news from company director Norma (Mona Martínez). There will be a new prima ballerina, and it will be Irene.

She (María Pedraza) is a curly-headed redhead whose pragmatic parents and older sister aren’t the most supportive. There’s instant resentment from the rest of the company, the bitchy male dancers and especially diva-in-the-making Ruth (Olivia Baglivi).

And the reason they need a new leading lady is that the previous one died. Nobody wants to talk about it. But anway, yaaaaay Irene.

Fortunately, there’s a newcomer to the company, Aurora (Paula Losada), an introvert, daughter of a single-mom ex-dancer (Marta Hazas), who pushes her.

Aurora wears her long black hair just so. She averts her eyes and turns her head to avoid showing us her full face. She is a beautiful, expressive dancer with a large port wine stain covering one cheek.

Irene soon realizes she has a confidante and Aurora a mentor as they begin to work on “Giselle,” each playing her part and “”angry spoiled brat” Ruth pouting, and worse.

Something tells us this isn’t going to end with mere curtain calls.

The “glass” of the title has three meanings here. There are glass figurines that one character collects, fragile and breakable and dangerous to pick up or step on when they’re broken. There’s the glass that venal dancers might use to sabotage a rival’s feet, a dancer’s livelihood, in the company shower.

And there’s the exultant, liberating dancing on the water that Irene and Aurora experience when they visit a secret quarry to escape, be by themselves and share their fears and hopes.

The leads are interesting, but never beguiling or c

The story’s lean through line is cluttered by distractions — a young man, a semi-nude performance art/dance piece staged in a nightclub, a blush of first love, an accident, family complications and the callous manipulations of the taskmaster Norma.

“There’s no prima ballerina who can maintain friendships,” she counsels Irene (in Spanish, with subtitles, or dubbed into English). “You have to consider this production a matter of life and death.”

And there it is, that Big Theme of Dance Movies, the one that undoes so many heroines, struggling to transcend toe shoes and the Earthbound stage to experience and relate the ethereal, overwhelmed by a pursuit of perfection (vomiting to stay thin), paranoid to what rivals might do to undercut you.

Generous samples of “Giselle” at the end aside, there’s little that’s new here, which is no cardinal sin. But the picture’s meandering story told at a quiet, balletic pace rob it of much of the intensity that such Warning Labels for Ballet movies thrive on.

Rating: TV-MA, injuries, self-harm, nudity, profanity

Cast: María Pedraza, Paula Losada, Mona Martínez, Iria Del Río, Olivia Baglivi and Marta Hazas.

Credits: Directed by Jota Linares, scripted by Jorge Naranjo. A Netflix release.

Running time: 2:17

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
This entry was posted in Reviews, previews, profiles and movie news. Bookmark the permalink.