Passion, friendship, self-hate, and fantasy: “Dancing on Glass” deals with all that and much more. Even though the tough life of ballerinas has been the subject of various films, “Dancing on Glass” does so in its own way. Irene is played by Maria Pedraza, (popularly known for her roles in Elite, Money Heist, Toy Boy, etc.), a young ballerina who slowly finds the world turning against her the moment she was selected to perform the lead role. Amidst the jealousy of her troupe members, she connected with Aurora, a recruit for the ballet company. With the constant fear of judgment and hate, Aurora and Irene started to build a world of their own. A world where no one could harm them.
‘Dancing On Glass’ Plot Summary: What Is The Film About?
The film begins with the suicide of Maria, the lead ballerina of the company. After her death, Irene was chosen to play the role of Giselle. The romantic ballet titled “Giselle” deals with the story of a young peasant woman who gets heartbroken by a man named Albrecht. She goes into a state of madness after their separation and finally dies. The second act deals with Willis. They were the forest spirits who welcomed Giselle after her death. Myrtha was the Queen of the Willis, and the Willis were the women who died unmarried. It is primarily a story that deals with the emotional turmoil caused when one is separated from the person they love the most. The story of Giselle resonated with Irene’s life, and “Dancing On Glass” is divided into two acts as well.
When Irene first learned about her selection, she was ecstatic, but after reaching the company, she realized that everyone expected Ruth (Maria’s best friend) to play the part. From that instant, she felt like an outsider, unable to trust the people around her. She first interacted with Aurora outside the club, where the group was celebrating the first day. They both felt out of place and found comfort in each other’s company. She was the first person to ask how Irene felt after the selection, and that impacted her to a great extent. The two gradually started to support each other. Irene’s father was not too fond of Irene’s profession. He made her feel insecure about her work and wanted her to focus on a long-term plan. She started to distance herself from her family as well as from her co-performers. She assumed that every prank played to demean her at her workplace was planned by Ruth and her friends.
The story of “Dancing On Glass” took a turn and entered act two when Aurora was betrayed by a man she fell in love with after spending a few hours together. In that moment of disarray, she got into an accident and injured her leg. Her mother was advised by the doctor to keep Irene away from her. The two were in pain during their separation. They both longed to be together once again as they used to be. Unable to take the silence anymore, Irene reached Aurora’s doorstep. The two convinced Aurora’s mother to allow her to enter. They danced together in their world of fantasy made out of glass. On the opening night, Aurora managed to enter backstage and motivate Irene. With one look at Aurora, Irene felt confident and calm. The group was awestruck by her brilliant performance in Act I. Norma, the strict head of the company, noticed Aurora backstage. She dragged her to the tailor’s room and asked her to leave, as she was no longer a part of the company. Aurora’s mother kept the truth away from her, and in a moment of rage and disbelief, she struck Norma. The physical altercation between Norma, Aurora, and Irene led to Norma’s death. Irene performed just like she was supposed to, but after her performance, she grabbed hold of Aurora’s hand and walked to their land of dreams.
Major Spoilers Ahead
Who Was Aurora?
Aurora was a shy girl who mostly kept to herself. She had a birthmark on her face, and people around her made fun of it. With her long black hair, Aurora always tried to keep the mark hidden from people. Her mother controlled her life to a great extent. An ex-ballerina, she wanted her daughter to achieve the fame that she could not after making a mistake. This mistake was hinted to be her romance with Aurora’s father, who never bothered to look after his family. Aurora was raised by her mother, and it was through her success that she wanted to feel the pride she had once missed. She bathed her, dressed her, and made sure that Aurora would do all that was required to be a great ballerina.
Aurora always felt uncomfortable when people looked at her. Therefore, she found a trick to help her overcome her fear. She escaped to a safe space while dancing, where people were replaced by glass dolls, and the room turned into her world of fantasy. She felt liberated from all the expectations and shame. She shared this secret with Irene, and with time, Irene learned to escape as well. Aurora was never admired or loved by anyone other than her mother and, most recently, Irene. Therefore, when Jon, a member of an underground theatre group, expressed interest, she was swayed away. When they kissed, Aurora looked at her reflection in the mirror and tucked her hair away from her face. She probably wanted to see herself, her whole self, loved and admired by someone. Though the romance was short-lived, she saw him kiss another woman. She felt betrayed and, in that moment of rush, she ran into a car. She was hospitalized, and her chances of dancing again seemed bleak. She had sent hurtful texts to Jon, something that the doctor found concerning, and asked her mother to consult a psychiatrist. Her mother wanted to live in denial. She believed that the doctors knew nothing and that her daughter could join the company once again. Her mother kept Irene away from her, as the doctor found their friendship unusual. But Irene and Aurora were able to convince her to allow them to stay in contact.
When Aurora watched Irene perform on the opening night, she felt as if she was dancing as well. She knew they were both connected, and they needed each other every moment to be able to function. One day, during their rehearsals, the two escaped to a scenic place that was mentioned by Maria in her diary. They felt a sense of calmness, as if that place and that time were just created for them, and they got lost in their dreams in which they danced on glass. That moment remained etched in their memory, and they longed to be there forever.
‘Dancing On Glass’ Ending Explained: Do Aurora And Irene Survive?
The dance troupe felt that Irene was slowly getting away from everyone, and Norma was the reason behind it. She encouraged Irene to no longer be friends with Aurora and asked her to be a soloist. To make Irene realize the weight of her responsibility, she asked the tailor to bring her dress size down. Aurora suffocated in the dress; her body turned red. She suffered from an eating disorder and made sure to throw up the little that she consumed. She maintained a notebook where she measured her body each day. Her mother was extremely worried when she spoke to the other members and later found the notebook. She had a word with Norma and threatened to sue for the death of Maria as they believed it was she who mentally tormented her, and that led to her suicide. But Norma revealed a shocking truth: Maria went to New York to look after her ailing mother, who suffered from cancer. Norma had been away from the company for four months. She then decided to fix a date, before which she had to return. When her mother was choking on the food she had consumed, Maria chose to not help her. She did not do anything to save her and watched her suffer. She knew that the death of her mother would allow her to return to the company and take back her position. The madness of performing had turned her into someone she hated now. As a result of guilt and shame, she committed suicide. Norma did not reveal this truth to anyone; she wanted her friends to remember her fondly.
At the end of “Dancing On Glass,” on the opening night, when Norma had a physical altercation with Aurora after noticing her backstage, Aurora injured her. She screamed out of pain and wanted to get rid of Aurora, as she believed her presence would negatively impact Irene. Irene tried to interfere but, in an attempt to protect Aurora, she pushed Norma aside. Norma banged her head on a table and collapsed. She started to lose blood and lost consciousness. Aurora advised Irene to go back on stage and perform. Aurora watched her perform again and felt tranquil. She noticed that the choreographer was searching for Norma. She knew that they did not have much time on hand before everyone could pin them for murdering her. As the troupe joined hands at the end of the performance and bowed in front of the audience, they realized that Irene was missing. Irene grabbed hold of Aurora’s hand after the performance. They climbed the stairs of the building and reached the terrace. They imagined the land of their dreams, the place where they had felt happiest beyond the terrace walls. They stood on the edge of the parapet wall holding hands. They had a smile on their faces. Aurora looked back and saw her mother staring at them in disbelief. They jumped, hoping for a happy ending to their story.
Norma believed that she was not responsible for the way her students acted, and she did all that was required to get the best result. But, come to think of it, it was society and the pressure created by the people around them that led to their decision. Norma, at any given moment, reminded Irene of how replaceable she was, and the fear of losing the best opportunity consumed her. Her father spoke of how short-term her career was. The fear of not being able to be what one is expected to be takes a toll on life.
Meanwhile, Aurora had to meet her mother’s expectations. The fact that she could not dance any longer became unacceptable to her mother. Aurora was made to feel worthless if she failed to dance. She wanted to escape that feeling. Aurora and Irene were extremely lonely, and with time, Irene doubted everyone around her for their intent. She only felt that Aurora could understand her pain. Their love was platonic; it was a driving force that resulted in them choosing to die together and living in their safe space where they could be just the way they were.
“Dancing on Glass” manages to convey complex emotions. The ballet performances were spectacular, and the cast manages to keep the audience engrossed throughout the film. Even though ballet life has been explored in several films, the tale of Aurora and Irene makes the difference. The title “Dancing on Glass” signifies their happiest moment together when they danced at the scenic place recommended by Maria. The world they escaped to was made out of glass and could easily be shattered and taken away from them. It was perhaps the reason why they chose to protect it forever.
“Dancing on Glass” is a 2022 Drama thriller film directed by Jota Linares.