A few years ago I went to Lincoln Center to see a live production of The Nutcracker. I remember being really impressed by the set design. And the music, of course, was perfect. I was much less impressed with the actual ballet. Ballet isn't exactly one of my favorite pastimes and I know close to nothing about it. So without understanding how difficult it is to be one of the best ballet dancers in the world, I sort of just took the ballet dancing in The Nutcracker for granted.
I had been really wanting to make a motion study film where I can focus solely on the beauty of animation and I immediately thought of dance. So I went down a researching rabbit hole and wound up watching some ballet videos on YouTube. When I came upon this version of The Swan, the music was immediately recognizable and very pretty. But what really struck me, for the first time in my life, is how moving and beautiful a ballet dance performance can be.
The name of this ballerina is Ulyana Lopatkina and she looks as if she was born to do nothing else but ballet. Her physical specimen is made for the art form in the same way LeBron James was made to be an athlete. From an animation standpoint, her form and gracefulness were a perfect fit for what I was wanting to do.
I started by matching her movements with simple white lines. I enhanced some of the inherent motion with some secondary animation using a faded set of motion trails:
As I went along, it became apparent that one doesn't really need to know the name of the piece in order to know that she is a dying bird. Here are some stills of just the motion study itself in plain white lines. I mean, her form...it's perfect:
I was careful when deciding what the shapes and lines would be because I really wanted to get an understanding of the mechanics (and immense strength) involved in performing a dance like this and at this caliber.
I guess this is true for all forms of dance but, by doing this motion study using ballet, I've learned to assume perfection from the art form. Seems like the grading scale is only A+ or F in ballet dancing. Like gymnastics or figure skating, one minor flub is a failure.
Here are some finished stills from the film: