Documentary pulls the curtain on ballet

The Last 24 – a documentary recording the last 24 hours before members of the Dominic Walsh Dance Theater go onstage for a premier production – captures not only a raw depiction of what dancers must endure before taking the stage, but also offers an avenue for viewers to appreciate the true art form of dance.

The documentary lets viewers to witness everything ranging from ticket sales to the rigorous training dancers undergo before their premier performance of Made in Italy.

Dominic Walsh, who began gracing the Houston Ballet dance floor in 1989, has since expanded his own independent company. He said he believes the film does an excellent job encompassing where the passion of a dancer truly lies.

"You may think early on ‘Wow, these dancers go through a lot’ with the injuries and the schedule and expectations and learning all this choreography and notes, but then you get a really great feeling at the end and why we do it," Walsh said.

Walsh said the documentary was designed to give the viewers a genuine interest and appreciation for the craft.

Executive producer Ernie Manouse proposed the idea to have viewers to acknowledge the type of efforts performers endure in order to execute a spectacular show on stage.

"What I wanted to do with the show is make sure that the audience had the opportunity to really see and appreciate all the hard work that goes in to these moments (dancers) give to us as a collective community," Manouse said.

The film was recorded in a span of 24 hours. Three camera crews worked simultaneously along with the collaborative effort of many, including director Matthew Brawley and associate producer Jake Hamilton.

For Hamilton, a broadcast journalism sophomore, the experience in working for this film was a surreal one. Hamilton said one of the toughest aspects of working on the film was the grueling hours the production team underwent.

"After we wrapped, I think that’s when it really sunk in for all of us, and what we had just done in the past 24 hours," Hamilton said. "Now that it’s finally airing we have a lot of positive feedback and we’re proud to be a part of that," Hamilton said.

Hamilton wrote for the Houston Chronicle as a film critic and used it as a stepping stone into an associate producer role.

He endured a demanding schedule that began with classes at 8 a.m. and ended nearly 24 hours later. Filming began sharply at 7:30 p.m. and lasted until 7:30 p.m. the next evening.

"We had to work so fast, there wasn’t much down time while filming," Hamilton said.

The experience exceeded all expectations, he said, and gave him the experience necessary to succeed beyond the coridors of campus.

"It was an amazing opportunity and I’m grateful (Manouse) gave me that opportunity."

Many times reality programs don’t always take a clear approach in presenting the full picture, but Walsh believes this isn’t the case in The Last 24.

"It’s a very honest portrayal and are valid issues that valid directors and dancers go through and makes the art form that much more interesting to be able to see it in this sort of reality documentary format," Walsh said.

The Last 24 will debut at 9:30 p.m. today on PBS with an encore at 10:30 p.m.

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