Posted by Rebecca King on 06.12.2012
I feel as if I have been a television blogger recently. It seems that everywhere we look these days, with the click of your remote you will come across another dance show. These shows do, of course, generate exposure for the dance world and initiate dance based conversations among Americans. But what are these conversations like? Are these viewers saying, “Wow. I think I am going to go see my local ballet company perform this weekend!” I doubt it: but that should be the goal. Today, America is talking about Bunheads.
As you have all probably seen, last week I posted my thoughts on the new CW reality show, Breaking Pointe, following the lives of seven Ballet West dancers. Last night brought the premier of yet another ballet based show, this time on ABC Family, entitled Bunheads. I apologize in advance for being harsh on the show, as I do not like to create a negative atmosphere here on TENDUS. But as I watched last night and followed America’s tweets about the show, I felt the need to put a few of my thoughts out there. Don’t worry, this will be my only review, as I do not plan to watch the show again.
Our main character, “professional dancer” Michelle Simms, Sutton Foster, starts the show as a Vegas show girl and before the first commercial, drunkenly marries her wealthy stalker. The first five minutes left me wondering, why is this show called Bunheads again? Oh, because she used to dance with ABT before running away for a “better paying job” in Vegas. Oh and what’s more? Coincidentally, her now mother-in-law owns a ballet studio.
Like Black Swan, every ballet cliché is represented in Bunheads: body insecurity, obsessive perfectionism, and competitive spirits. The show is written by Amy Sherman-Palladino, who is well-known for the series Gilmore Girls. It is unclear if Ms. Sherman-Palladino has had any experience with the ballet world. Based on the writing, I am guessing a few Google searches were involved. I also wonder who did the choreography for the show; the first combination at the barre involved adagio grande battements, grande plies, and stretches. In this scene, the mother-in-law studio owner and ex-Ballet Russes dancer, throws in a line about Balanchine, I expect to convince the audience that she knows what she is talking about. I cringed and imagined Balanchine rolling over in his grave.
When our show’s heroine happens upon a couple of the students in the studio after class, she gives student, Boo, clad in a Snoopy leotard, a correction on her arabesque. The students are amazed that she used to be a dancer. Michelle later gives them pointers in anticipation of their audition for Joffrey Ballet School that is coming up. I am certain that this was the most horrifying scene for any ballet dancers who were watching. She gave them a “combination” of steps for them to practice, made up of steps she called “ponies,” “snakes,” and “freestyle.” I can assure you that, post-career Vegas dancer or not, no ABT dancer would ever teach a combination like that. That was enough for me.
What worried me the most, was the parallel the show created between Vegas dancers and ballet dancers. I have nothing against the dancers in Vegas, but they are different from ballet dancers. That is like calling an apple an orange: they are related in that they are fruits, but that is where the similarities end. Ballet dancers dedicate their lives to perfecting their craft in a very disciplined way. That effort of young ballet students is what the show should be focused on.
After the show’s premier, review after review has been posted online praising the show’s writing, humor, and acting. People are loving this show! It is expected to be one of the best shows of the summer. This horrifies me. If it were not based on ballet it would be just another bad television show that people are hooked on. But this show is based in our world, and this is the worst portrayal of our world yet.
So I recommend telling your friends who are watching the show, what the ballet world is really like. If they are looking for a ballet based show, direct them to something more accurate, like Breaking Pointe.
If you agree or disagree with me, please let me know! I would love to hear your thoughts on the newest ballet based TV show.