maiko_dancing_child_1Year: 2015
Director: Ase Svenheim Drivenes
Writer(s): N/A
Region of Origin: Norway
Rating: N/A
Digital, Color, 70 mins

Synopsis: Life as a prima ballerina over 30 is tough enough for Maiko when she decides to start a family…. (Source)

The opening moments of Ase Svenheim Drivenes’ Maiko: Dancing Child feature a child promising to her parents that one day she’ll be a prima ballerina. It’s not out of arrogance or self-importance, but a sincere hope tied into reverence and respect, as a gift to bring honor to her family. These are the lofty stakes that Japanese ballerina Maiko Nishino Ekberg has set for herself since a little girl. Willing to stop at nothing to reach her goals, Drivenes’ documentary is an affecting, empowering portrait of a woman who can’t and won’t accept failure, living life on her own terms and pushing herself to the limit with an audacious spirit that can’t be ignored.

First attending The Royal Ballet School in London at the age of 15, Maiko’s journey to the top is not one without sacrifice from her and those around her. For Maiko, she has honed her body her entire life, stretching the limits of human capabilities and mental strength to do what very few have the same discipline for. Her parents have sacrificed as well, selling their house and car, moving back in with their parents to send Maiko to her prestigious ballet school. Drivenes’ film begins in earnest with Maiko at the peak of her game. She’s esteemed amongst her colleagues and has booked herself for the next year at a prestigious ballet company, but there’s a wrench in the works as well – she’s just became pregnant. Knowing the limited lifespan of her career and her desire to start a family, Maiko’s affections are suddenly divided into two: raising her newborn child, and starring in the greatest, most difficult ballet of all time, Swan Lake.

maiko_dancing_child_3What Drivenes’ shows off best in the film is a woman at a crossroads. With two passions vying for attention, we get to see Maiko’s resolve as she attempts to show her baby the same love and devotion that her parents gave her, while also not giving up on the goal that she’s been working on her entire life. Seeing her life expand and transform with the birth of her child paints a picture of an incredible woman who is able to adapt to anything that comes her way. It’s a celebration of the complexity of women, that they can be mothers and nurturers, but shouldn’t simply be classified by that stereotypical trait – Maiko is a fierce survivor, a psychological warrior whose insatiable drive for greatness cannot be contained.

Maiko’s name translates to “dancing child”, an apt title that simultaneously defines her literally and metaphorically. As she navigates her odds and the world around her, Maiko’s life forms an elegant and sophisticated dance crafted with precision and grace. Every one of us has dreams, but very few are able to see them through the end. After witnessing the bandaged toes, bruised feet, and endless hours put into refining her craft, Maiko’s determination shines as the true spectacle of this film, a testament of her inability to give up or give in, and proof that hers is an empowering story of resilience and beauty.