the exposure of an injured dancer in a captivating documentary

Steven McRae is a dancer with the Royal Ballet in London. Victim of a serious tear of the Achilles tendon, he chose to fight to get back on stage. In a poignant documentary, Stéphane Carrel followed all the stages of its reconstruction.

France Télévisions – Culture Editorial


Reading time: 2 min

The dancer Steven McRae in the documentary film "Resilient Man" by Stéphane Carrel.  (STEPHANE CARREL)

His career was shattered on stage on October 16, 2019, while he was dancing Manon’s Story, the famous ballet by Kenneth MacMillan. Steven McRae is a “principal”, the equivalent of our principal dancers, at the Royal Ballet in London. In the documentary Resilient Man devoted to it by Stéphane Carrel, in theaters since April 17, he explains having made “a little jump” And feeling “like a stab in the Achilles tendon.”

He can no longer stand on his leg and starts screaming. The stunned spectators are the first witnesses to his pain and his drama. Twenty minutes later, the decision was made to operate. He will be in a cast and then wear an orthopedic boot for weeks. He will be arrested for two and a half years.

Never give up

His career could have ended there, but his passion for dance is so strong that he is not ready to give up. With the help of his wife, a dancer at the Royal Ballet like him and mother of their three children, he will fight body and soul to rebuild himself and get back to dancing.

Director Stéphane Carrel followed him for almost two years, step after step, for better and for worse. His documentary hides nothing of the difficulties, the anxieties of this brilliant performer who finds himself forced to start from scratch, or almost. The title of the film refers to resilience, this ability to never give up.

Resilient Man shows behind the scenes, the extreme difficulty of the profession of dancer and the sword of Damocles that the injury represents. We think of the film by Cédric Klapisch In body released in 2022 which also retraced the journey of a dancer injured on stage. Reality meets fiction. And often exceeds it.

For his return to the stage, Steven McRae does not take the easy route and rehearses Romeo and Juliet, one of the most challenging classical ballets. His instructor advises him to hold back the horses. He is in a hurry to get back to his best level.

Learn to measure your efforts

However, he knows better than anyone what happens when you don’t listen to the warning signals sent by your body. He ignored it for a long time with a lot of painkillers. Learning to measure your efforts is an integral part of the reconstruction program.

Resilient Man is a moving exposure. The dancer gives himself up completely without masking his doubts and his fears. Despite some length, the documentary gives food for thought on the priesthood that this profession can represent. He asks this difficult question: how can we grow old in dance if the body no longer keeps up?

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