Dancing Across Borders is the type of documentary that tells an interesting story but never quite draws you in. The film chronicles a young man’s improbable journey from the villages of Siem Reap, Cambodia to the halls of the American School of Ballet in New York, and on to the professional ranks of the Pacific Northwest Ballet Company in Seattle.

Sokvannara (Sy) Sar was a teenager performing with a traditional Cambodian dance troupe when filmmaker and patron of the arts, Anne Bass happened to catch his act. She was struck by his natural grace and charisma and became convinced that he had the makings of a great ballet dancer, despite his lack of formal training. Bass paved the way for Sy to come to the United States and pursue a career in ballet. He wasn’t exactly greeted with open arms and overnight success. He was relatively old (at 16) to start ballet training and he didn’t speak much English. But with the help of a private tutor and encouragement from others in the world of ballet academia, Sy caught up to his peers and has enjoyed a moderate level of success.

The film is a bit reminiscent of The Blind Side, but without Sandra Bullock and without the benefit of Hollywood’s “dramatic license.” Just substitute ballet for football. In the end, both are about raw talent, hard work, and luck – and the positive impact that one person’s intervention can have on another person’s life. The best part of the film is the dancing itself and Sy’s physical transformation from charismatic teenager to downright hot young man. It may be hard to find this movie in a theater near you (check the artsy indie theaters), but if you like ballet or are (or know) a student of the arts, it’s definitely worth checking out. And for the more mainstream-minded folk, The Blind Side is now available on DVD!

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