The Spanish-language psychological drama ‘Dancing on Glass’ follows the friendship of two ballerinas, who escape into a world that isolates them from any pressuring expectations of the real world. It is now streaming on Netflix.
Warning: This article contains heavy spoilers
Dancing on Glass revolves around the activities taking place within Spain’s premier dance company, wherein the plot unveils with the suicide of the prima ballerina of ‘Giselle’.
The opening scene hints at a call for a new prima ballerina as a replacement for the earlier one, Maria, who dances to her death. The reason for her act is not revealed until later in the movie.
The film, after Maria’s introduction scene, displays ‘Las Niñas de Cristal: un ballet en dos actos,’ establishing a structure of ‘A Ballet in Two Acts’. This structure divides the whole film into ‘two Acts’.
Act I introduces the family dynamics of Irene and Aurora: one where the family couldn’t care less about ballet and consider it a time pass, while the other cares about ballet to a certain level of obsession.
While Irene’s family does not think ballet is worth the time and energy she spends on it, she pressurises herself into fitting the perfection that the ballet life demands at the expense of her health, displaying symptoms of anorexia nervosa.
Au contraire, Aurora lives with her mother, who was once a ballerina and never got over that life. She thus pressurises her daughter into becoming the perfect ballerina, and forces her to ‘fit in with the other kids’.
Irene is, then, presented with the opportunity of being the next prima ballerina, while Aurora joins the company as the newest member. As Irene is being envied by everyone for her new title, she finds a new friend in Aurora.
The plot thickens as their friendship becomes more intimate and somehow ends the current Act with Aurora meeting with a car accident.
Act II begins with the revelation that Aurora survives the accident and has to see a therapist to cope with her separation from Irene, while her mother struggles to keep them apart and Irene tries to get in touch with her.
If you still have doubts about the ending, here’s a complete breakdown.
Dancing on Glass ending explained in detail:
Nueva prima ballerina
With Maria’s suicide being the new ‘gossip’ for everyone, her title of being the prima ballerina also opens up for someone else. While everyone assumes that the title would be given to her friend, Ruth, everyone is surprised at the news of the title being given to Irene.
Norma, the director of the company, demands for Irene stand up and claim her lead role as Giselle in front of everyone. A new choreographer is introduced then, who asks what the story of Giselle is.
‘Giselle’ is a romantic ballet performance in two acts about a beautiful peasant girl woman named Giselle, who becomes deranged in love with a married man and commits suicide.
The ballerinas, including Irene, add onto each other to narrate the story, while the new choreographer unravels the passion that has to go into the ballet performance and proceeds to take the audition of the rest of the ballerinas.
While Irene gets the lead role of Giselle and performs her best during rehearsals, no amount of practice seems to make her believe that she deserves the part. She notices the growing envy she receives from her peers for getting the role of Giselle.
As they get closer and closer to the opening night, Irene suffers under the pressure of Norma, who manipulates her into perfection and believes that is the only way there is. Pressure builds as, observing Irene’s deteriorating health, her mother questions Norma about Maria.
Maria: the fallen danseuse
Irene’s mother is being made aware of the symptoms that she has been showing by her sister. Worried, she rushes to Norma and threatens her job by claiming to sue her if she does not reveal what happened to Maria.
Norma breaks as Irene’s mother blames her for Maria’s death. She iterates that Maria was her daughter and she wouldn’t push her to kill herself, yet she agrees to use techniques of manipulation to “perfect” the ballerinas, who she claims to see as her children.
Norma reveals that Maria’s mother was fighting cancer and Maria had asked for a leave of four months and gone off to New York to be with her and take care of her. While Maria was with her mother, Norma had threatened to replace Maria with Ruth if she didn’t come back soon. Maria, under pressure, watched as her mother suffered to death.
Norma narrates this story to Irene’s mother and provides her evidence of Maria leaving a voicemail for Norma confessing to all this. Norma reiterates that Maria killed herself as she felt like a monster, while Irene’s mother points out that she is the one who pressured her by threatening her regarding the role of Giselle.
This is when it is revealed to the viewers that Norma is the real villain as she claims that manipulation is the only way to get things done at her job. She reiterates that art must be an obsession, otherwise, it’s entertainment and not art.
Giselle’s opening night
“Now all that matters is the audience and Giselle.”
Dancing on Glass and ‘Giselle’ goes hand-in-hand in having a similar structure in narration via two acts.
Norma’s night began well off in Act II of the film. While she was relieved to have separated Irene and Aurora, to her disappointment, that was not true, as Irene was closer to Aurora than ever before by the time the opening night arrived.
Aurora and Irene felt that their performances are much better when they are in a closer physical space. Act I of Giselle ended successfully while Aurora stood supporting Irene from behind the curtains.
Seeing Aurora backstage, Norma was furious. While Norma tried to drag Aurora out of there, Irene came to the rescue. Amid this quarrel, Irene accidentally pushes Norma, who hits her head and falls unconscious.
Irene and Aurora try to revive Norma and realise their efforts are futile. Aurora asks Irene to go to her dressing room to avoid being a suspect. Irene refuses and they hold each other.
Act II of Giselle resumes while Aurora supports from backstage. Once the performance ends, Irene and Aurora go off to the roof and decide to be together and inseparable by ending their lives there.
Both the Giselle’s, Maria and Irene, thus meet the same fate as Giselle did in the ballet performance, except Irene gets to be with her lover Aurora.