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such a nasty woman | by maryann johanson

question of the day: Does it make any difference to ‘Black Swan’ if Natalie Portman did not do most of the dancing herself?

Have you heard? Natalie Portman’s dance double in Black Swan, Sarah Lane, has been saying that there’s very little of Portman’s dancing actually up on the screen. From NME.com

Portman’s fiancé Benjamin Millepied worked as a choreographer for the film. He recently claimed that “85 percent of that movie is Natalie,” while other producers have emphasised how hard she worked to learn dance moves for the role.

However, her dance double Sarah Lane has said this is misleading.

“Of the full body shots, I would say five percent are Natalie,” she told Entertainment Weekly.

She added: “They wanted to create this idea in people’s minds that Natalie was some kind of prodigy or so gifted in dance and really worked so hard to make herself a ballerina in a year and a half for the movie, basically because of the Oscar.

“I’ve been doing this for 22 years… can you become a concert pianist in a year and a half, even if you’re a movie star?”

Lane had further criticism for Portman. “From a professional dancer’s standpoint, she doesn’t look like a professional ballet dancer at all and she can’t dance in pointe shoes,” she claimed.

Let’s assume that all entirely 100 percent true. Does it change the power of Portman’s performance? Is the impact of it in the dancing, or in the changes the character goes through that aren’t about dance but about competition and jealous and the drive for perfection and so on, things that are incidental to the dancing (and could easily be attached to another professional endeavor)? We can perhaps agree that it might be unfair if the makers of the film have downplayed an important contribution from one of the people who helped make the film, but is that a matter merely of offscreen gossip, or does it make you change your opinion of the film — for better or for worse — or of Portman’s performance?

Does it make any difference to Black Swan if Natalie Portman did not do most of the dancing herself?

For me, it doesn’t. I never thought Mark Hamill was really flying an X-wing. I never thought Ray Liotta was actually a gangster. But the collective power of the movie surrounding them created the illusion that they were. Some of that illusion is created by actors, some by special FX, some by other people talented in myriad ways. Surely what matters is the total illusion, not the breakdown of who created which part of it.

Or am I wrong? What do you think?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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