A Spellbinding Short Film Reveals the Magic Behind Every Oregon Ballet Theatre Performance

It takes a lot of pliés, push-ups, primping, and pulleys to make it all happen.

By Fiona McCann April 5, 2016

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The lights go down. A current runs through the auditorium, the electricity of anticipation as the hum of conversation becomes a hush, and then silence. The curtain goes up on the Oregon Ballet Theatre, and the spell is cast.

Except in the hours leading up to that moment, there’s been a whole world spinning behind the scenes, as a new short video by local filmmaker Patrick Weishampel makes clear. The Art of Making Art is a four-and-a-half-minute tribute to the work required to cast that spell, making visible what the audience rarely sees: the intensive preparation for every show, from wardrobe and make-up, to lighting and tuning up, to the physical and mental preparation of the dancers as they prepare to take the stage. A collage of images building to the curtain-up crescendo, it’s a goosebump-inducing behind-the-scenes that somehow manages to maintain the magic even as it lays bear the complex cogs and wheels that form part of the OBT machine.

The video was the brainchild of OBT’s artistic director Kevin Irving, who approached Weishampel, looking for a way to showcase the sheer volume of work that goes into every performance. “I wanted to find a way to present, in a short amount of time, the thousands of actions that go into the creation of a ballet performance,” he says. “While it’s commonplace to visualize the sweaty practice of the professional dancer, I think that many people will come away from seeing this short film with a much greater understanding of the meticulous attention to detail that absolutely everyone involved backstage at the ballet brings to his or her work.”

For more on the video, click here. Oregon Ballet Theatre's next show, Beautiful Decay, runs Apr 14–23. Read more about it here.

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