Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Coming Attraction: 'Mia: A Dancer's Journey' on PBS SoCal 11/20

"Mia: A Dancer's Journey" airs on PBS SoCal Nov. 20 at 7 p.m.
Photo credit: Maurice Seymour
Mia Slavenska, Croatia's prima ballerina and a star on American stages in the mid-20th century, is a Southern California story in her own right -- having lived and taught dance here in Los Angeles for more than a dozen years.

CC and I had the chance to catch a sneak peek of the film "Mia: A Dancer's Journey," premiering on PBS SoCal on November 20 at 7 p.m., at St. Anthony's Croatian Catholic Church downtown this weekend, and it was amazing to see the enthusiasm surrounding this special film.

What first drew me to "Mia" was that it focused on a distinguished ballerina who had lived much of her life in the place we call home. Also, CC was so enamored of ballet for so many years that I thought she would have a connection to it as well.

What I didn't realize was that the film is also about a mother-daughter relationship, one in which Slavenska's daughter, Maria Neumann, seeks to keep her mother's memory alive. While Slavenska worked on her memoirs during the latter part of her life, they remained unpublished when she died in 2002.

This film was a way for Maria to bring her mother's story to modern audiences -- and it's fascinating.

Slavenska left Croatia at the age of 20, after having achieved prima ballerina status at the Zagreb Opera and won awards at the Berlin Dance Olympics, which coincided with the infamous 1936 Berlin Olympics.

Because of so much political unrest happening in Europe, Slavenska then emigrated to the United States at age 23 and performed with the prestigious Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. After years with that company, she formed her own, eventually performing Tennessee Williams' "A Streetcar Named Desire" as a ballet. That was an especially modern concept at the time.

Mia Slavenska as Blanche DuBois in "A Streetcar Named Desire" as a ballet.
Photo credit: Marcus Blechman
The film itself is like opening a time capsule and allowing the past to speak for itself. Between the black-and-white footage of Mia dancing, to the interviews with her in her later years, to dance critics and ballerinas talking about Mia's life, to her daughter visiting her mother's homeland, "Mia: A Dancer's Journey" is such a vibrant film. (You might even recognize Blythe Danner's voice as Mia during parts of the narration.)

What I also loved about the experience was seeing the strong Croatian community in downtown Los Angeles. There were many supporters of the film that attended the screening, and it was amazing to see the connection between the audience and the woman on screen.

Judging by what we saw on Sunday, Mia Slavenska will most definitely not be forgotten.

"Mia: A Dancer's Journey" airs on PBS SoCal on Thursday, November 20 at 7 p.m.


David said...

Laura, Thank you for coming to the preview and writing an excellent, insightful review. After touring the world, Mia was also a founder of the CalArts Dance department, making her a part of the L.A. Story in the arts.
David Raiklen, Composer

L.A. Story said...

Thanks so much, David! I really appreciate it. And I didn't know Mia was a founder of the CalArts Dance department. An amazing woman and a great LA. story!


Related Posts with Thumbnails