The first half of I Can Dance!, of former ballerina Debra Maxwell’s introduction to ballet is very basic. In a steady, patient voice she explains what’s in a dance studio: barres (handrails at two different heights to help dancers’ balance during exercise), mirrors for checking body position (not for combing hair), and music (piano, in this case). She tells the home viewing audience to use the back of a sturdy chair in place of the barre, and then she calls in her class of beginners — five dainty little girls and a chubby and endearingly clumsy flat-topped little boy. They line up at the barre while she slowly demonstrates the five basic positions, giving beginners plenty of time to get the hang of it. Then the class takes the positions, to music.
But in moving on to more difficult exercises — grand battements (big kicks) and a combination of jetés, sautés, and assemblés (which together are kind of a hop, skip, and a jump) — Maxwell takes too grand a leap and may leave most aspiring young ballerinas biting the barre in frustration. Though she encourages viewers to use the pause and rewind buttons on their VCRs, some of her movements — even in slow motion — are difficult to emulate.
A child would be wise to watch this tape all the way through before trying the steps. But kids also should be prepared for some frustrating moments when the movements get complicated. B