ART BEAT: International Film Festival includes documentary about Gwinnett Dancer


Gwinnett Ballet Theatre alumna Alessandra Ball is one of three ballerinas featured in the film "Strength and Beauty," being shown Saturday night at the Gwinnett Center's International Film Festival. (Special Photo)

Gwinnett Center will be hosting its first International Film Festival on Saturday and Sunday, which will present 60 films from across the world. Films include features and short films alike, with many premieres and exciting offerings that area film buffs would otherwise not have a chance to experience.Three screening rooms have been set up to show the films.

The festivities actually start at 6:30 p.m. today with an Opening Night Gala for invited VIPs followed by an 8 p.m. Georgia premiere of the film “Spirit of Love” featuring retired NBA player Mike Glenn. Another Georgia Premiere, “A Fighting Chance,” is presented at 5:30 p.m. Sunday. Films will run Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. onward in the three screening rooms. For a schedule, go to www.gwinnettcenter.com/Schedule.712.0.html.

Passes can be purchased for individual days or for the full weekend, with or without workshops, online at www.gwinnettcenter.com/Tickets.710.0.html. There are also special deals on both Goldstar and Groupon.

Final awards are given out at 8:30 p.m. Sunday. Brand Bank is the presenting sponsor for the event which began a year ago as the brainchild of Gwinnett Center staffers. The Center announced the festival in 2012 and began accepting applications for acceptance. Approximately 120 films were sent for consideration, including works from Italy, Brazil, Iran, Indonesia and Mexico.

One film with a local twist is “Strength and Beauty: Three Ballerinas, Three Voices.” This film, by Chelsea Wayant, focuses on the “behind the scenes” lives of three ballerinas in three different stages of their careers at North Carolina Dance Theatre. One of the ballerinas is Gwinnett Ballet Theatre’s own Alessandra Ball, a Gwinnett County native and graduate of Greater Atlanta Christian School.

Ball resides in New York City with her husband and baby son, but she was enthusiastic about the film and the process of making it.

“The film was made in 2011 and 2012,” Ball said. “It focuses on three ballerinas at North Carolina Dance Theatre including Melissa Anduiza, Traci Gilchrest and myself.”

Gilchrest personified the ballerina as a mature artist closer to retirement, Ball as the ballerina in her prime and Gilchrest the dancer at the beginning of her journey in her second year with the company.

“The film captures what’s behind the ballerina. Not what we put onstage,” Ball said. “The documentary shows our human side and our personal lives and struggles.”

Ballerinas are often misunderstood according to Ball, with concepts that their craft is just a hobby, that they don’t eat or that they don’t have other interests or “play tennis.”

Ball has not seen the film yet, but she enjoyed working with Wayant.

“Working with Chelsea was a real pleasure,” she said. “She dug in deep, did her research, and immersed herself in our lives. She really captured what’s ‘behind the ballerina’ in three stages of life.”

“Strength and Beauty” will be shown at the Gwinnett Center International Film Festival from 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. on Saturday. For more information about “Strength and Beauty,” visit www.strengthandbeauty.moonfruit.com.

Holley Calmes is a freelance writer and public relations consultant specializing in the arts. Email her at hcalmes@mindspring.com.