Kung Fu Ballerina

Dhavit Mehta, writer & director

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Dhaivat Mehta loves Kung Fu movies. He’s seen them all at least five times, has got quite a DVD/VHS collection of his own, and can carry on a hefty debate with his classmates on what the best Kung Fu movie is.

“It’s definitely not ‘Kung Fu Panda,'” he said with a groan (referring to the 2008 animated movie by DreamWorks). And they went on to talk about the old masters, such as Bruce Lee and David Carradine, and which films had the worst dubbed lines.

So it’s not surprising that this senior Idyllwild Arts film major would want to write a Kung Fu, or Chinese martial arts, film.

“Prima Ballerina Assoluta,” his 18-minute short film about ballet dancers, started out as a Kung Fu ninja fighters movie, with lots of death and fight scenes, Mehta said.

“But then Isaac (Webb, chair of the Moving Pictures Department) and I realized that the only ones on campus athletic enough to carry off a fight scene were the dancers, so we had to change it a bit,” he said.

The show’s title, “Prima Ballerina Assoluta,” Mehta explained, is an Italian title for a professional ballet dancer.

“We researched it, and it’s a title of utmost respect for an international ballerina with a promising career,” he said. “The title fits our movie.”

“There’s lots of beauty to be explored with dancing” he added, “but we kept some Kung Fu elements, such as a sensei.”

The sensei, or wise dance instructor, is played by Ana Lia Lenchantin, an Idyllwild resident, who hails from Argentina and has acted in a several movies before.

“The dancers act as Lenchantin’s disciples,” Mehta said, “and kneel down before her. You’ll see that in lots of Kung Fu movies.”

Ellen King is one of the dancers in the "chick fight"

“There’s also an awesome chick fight, and it’s not held on the dance floor, but in the dorm room,” he added with enthusiasm.

Those three “chicks” that fight in his film are are dance majors Dakota Bailey and Ellen King, with Miracle Chance, a theater major at Idyllwild Arts.

Bailey was seen in the lunch room last week sporting a black eye. No one batted an eyelash.

“Doesn’t it look great?” Bailey beamed. “It has been so much fun working on this movie. I think I’m going to explore acting more in college.”

Laura Holliday, another film major, created the black eye for her with a “pro bruise kit” purchased online.

“It was really amazing, all the colors that were in there, including blue, black, purple, yellow and green,” she said. “The fight scene took three days to shoot, so I adjusted the colors on Dakota’s black eye each day. By the third day, it was yellow and green.”

Dakota Bailey, seen here at another event, sports a black eye in the movie

To choreograph the fight scene, Mehta had help from Phil Dunbridge, who works in the Admissions Department at Idyllwild Arts, but had a lot of “stage combat” (fight staging) experience in college.

“I really learned a lot from him with the fight scene,” Mehta said. “I told him that I wanted it to hurt to watch that scene, and he listened to me.”

Mehta laughed about some fights he’s seen in old “B” movies, in which the men’s hats remain on their heads.

The list of experts from different departments who helped with “Prima Ballerina Assoluta” grew as production neared. Ellen Rosas, head of the Idyllwild Arts Dance Department, choreographed all of the dance scenes. And Emma Gannon, a senior from the Creative Writing Department, was brought in to help with the dialogue.

“When this became a dance movie with lots of ‘girl chat,’ I realized that I needed some help,” Mehta said. “Emma is great with all kinds of dialogue, and character stuff too.”

Most of the scenes from “Prima Ballerina Assoluta” were shot on campus, including the sound stage, Pearson and Lower Wayne dorms.

After the screenings, Mehta plans to send the short film to a variety of film festivals in the area.

Screenings of “Prima Ballerina Assoluta,” and other short films produced by students in the Idyllwild Arts Moving Pictures Department, will be held at the Rustic Theater on North Circle Drive on Friday and Saturday, May 28 & 29. All shows are free and open to the public.

For more information, contact the Idyllwild Arts Academy at (951) 659-2171 or visit www.idyllwildarts.org.

Copyright 2010 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

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Dhavit Mehta

One Comment to “Kung Fu Ballerina”

  1. Your in no way to old to begin your Martial Arts Training, having said that you do need to keep in mind at our age the body takes longer to recoup.