There is no doubt that Thiago Soares is a fantastic ballet dancer. To become a principal dancer at the Royal Ballet in four years is no mean feat, and to be a guest artist in seven countries shows how in demand his talent is.
That is not what Felipe Braga’s documentary, Principal Dancer, is about.
It shows his amazing performances in London, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo, but when the director said he wanted to make a documentary about Thiago, he wanted to show the struggle and the work behind the dancer.
Braga’s documentary takes us behind the scenes into rehearsals to show us the real journey behind the performance. The physical preparation and the mental preparation that goes in to every single step.
Directors saying again, again, again. Repeating until the moves become muscle memory, repeating until that one minuscule detail that you or I would probably miss is rectified.
It is gruelling and difficult to watch at times as physical therapists elicit cracks from his body that should not be natural and an exhausted Thiago ices his aching muscles after a long day of rehearsals, just to do it again tomorrow.
This documentary shows the constant pain and effort it takes to become a ballet dancer. As he says in the documentary, pain is his little friend and you have to learn to live with it and overcome it in order to be successful.
Not only that but the constant pressure to create. In one very candid segment talking about his work at the Royal Opera House, he said: “Memory here is very short. You can do well in rehearsals one day and have a great performance, but tomorrow there is another matinee and by the end of the week you are old news.”
During some of these scenes you wonder why do they do this to themselves? What could possibly make this worth it?
The documentary has an answer for this too. You see the excitement of the performance, the collaboration among the crew and the exultant triumph when everything goes to plan.
Yes there is pressure and stress and pain but that is the crucible from which magic formed.
You see that although Thiago is the star of the show he relies on so many other people to get to where he is. It’s the other members of the cast, the different partners and the directors all working together and collaborating to make something truly extraordinary.
The joking and the camaraderie between the dancers, anecdotes about performing on an open air stage in Cannes in the pouring rain or dealing with drunk hecklers, all these prove that Thiago can laugh at himself and that is crucial. Not many dancers would allow a film crew to document such a raw and revealing journey through their performances.
This documentary is fascinating to watch as it does show you the warts-and-all story of a ballet dancer. You are a fly on the wall of a world many people view as glamorous and effortless, which in reality it is far from that.
The documentary will screen at the Royal Opera House on Monday 21 January: https://www.roh.org.uk/insights/insights-primeiro-bailarino-film-screening
- 66For an internationally-renowned dancer, Thiago Soares is very understated. Sitting in a small meeting room just off Tottenham Court Road, he starts stretching and touching his toes before apologetically asking if its ok if he eats a Pret baguette during our interview. I can hardly say no to an award-winning…