I used to play pick-up hockey with some friends once a week and before we went on a well-known professional figure skater would be practicing before us. I would come early so I could watch him as he went over every second of his program over and over again, falling, crashing, repeating, until he got it right. Such skill, such high speeds, it was incredible to watch. I was always intrigued by the idea of how dedicated to your craft you must be, both physically and emotionally, to be able to reach such a high level as this man did.
Simone Orlando was one of those kinds of people, only for her it was dancing instead of figure skating. However, for the movie ‘Broken’, this was not only a story of someone who dedicated themselves so completely to their craft but also what happens when an injury threatens to take that all away.
For the better part of 12 years, Simone Orlando was the lead dancer for Ballet BC. She was at the top of her game and the woman everyone could count on to get the job done. She loved what she did and sacrificed everything to get where she was, pouring her mind, body and soul into dancing ballet. It stood to reason that the company she danced for was aware of how lucky they were to have her combination of skill and determination in their corner.
While rehearsing a new ballet creation, Simone suffers an injury. At first, she attempts to work through it, take the pain so to speak, but it soon becomes clear that this is serious and no amount of painkillers can hide the fact she is struggling. This is where the movie takes off and takes the viewer on a winding journey of emotions.
To this day, there are many things surrounding ballet that people just do not understand. First and foremost, this is not a profession for just anyone. Talent is not enough to make you a successful dancer as it is both parts physical and emotional in terms of surviving the day to day grind. Ballet dancers are a tough bunch and watching Simone struggle along with her injury proves that point time and time again.
However, what becomes clear is the strange and dysfunctional relationship between dancer and the company they are dancing for. It seems that no dancer wants to admit they are actually hurt, and while not wanting to show weakness is one thing the fear of being easily replaced that I found shocking. In Simone’s case, she was horrified at the idea of being off her feet for any length of time as there might not be a job to come back to when she is indeed ready to return. This idea of needing to be almost superhuman, to fight through the pain, is mentally exhausting and watching Simone begin to struggle with this was very hard to watch.
It was extremely tough to watch Simone’s whole life begin to disintegrate before her eyes and director Lynne Spencer does a great job showing Simone reaching such highs only to sink to such levels of heartache and despair. Watching her discuss certain aspects of her injury and the realization of what was probably going to happen might have been tough to watch sometimes but was very, very powerful.
In the end, Simone Orlando finds a way to rise above the pain and disappointment, following a different path, but for a woman of her strength and commitment that doesn’t really surprise me. Broken is a story that touches on the good, bad and ugly behind the scenes in the world of ballet but more than that, the tale of a woman of incredible strength and conviction that did not roll over for anyone or anything.
Four and a half stars out of five
Broken is showing at The Canadian Film Festival Saturday March 25th, 5:30 pm at the Scotiabank Theatre
- A great look at the mental and physical strengths of ballet dancers
- Simone Orlando tells her story in a brutally honest but captivating way
- Tough movie to direct but done very well
- I would have liked to hear from some members of the ballet company