Posted by Rebecca King on 06.08.2012
In the age of reality TV, producers and networks are on a constant lookout for the next big hit. America is hooked on this form of entertainment; be it a show documenting the events of a house full of strangers who love to party or cameras following the lives of the extremely wealthy. Last week the CW welcomed a show that is offering viewers a behind the scenes view of something that is actually compelling, the world of ballet.
Breaking Pointe is a new reality show that chronicles the lives of seven Ballet West dancers. Based out of Salt Lake City, Ballet West is directed by Adam Sklute, a former dancer and former Associate Director of the Joffrey Ballet. We follow the romance of two couples, the relationship between two brothers, a dancer who is unhappy with his career, a young dancer being quickly shot up through the ranks, and the company’s prima ballerina. They sure do have all their “character” bases covered.
I want my readers to be aware that I refuse to discuss any of the events on the show that could be interpreted by viewers as portraying the dancers in a poor light. After experiencing a little bit of reality show filming myself, I am fully aware of the way producers can twist situations and modify statements in order to facilitate drama and entertainment. I am not accusing the producers of doing this, I am just realistic about the way they function. I want to give each dancer the benefit of the doubt: what they said on the show probably came out a little different than intended. I hope that, if you are watching the show, you will do the same.
The premier episode dealt with “contract week,” where the Artistic Director, Mr. Sklute, decides who will receive a year-long contract for the following season. We are shown segments of rehearsal footage that are strung together to look like an audition for the handsomely dressed Artistic Director, clad in a suit. (I suspect Mr. Sklute’s attire was something the producers requested of him, in order to make him seem more intimidating.) This “audition” is quite unrealistic, as as Artistic Director spends an entire season evaluating his dancers in all aspects of their work with the company. This way he or she can make an informed decision as to which dancers he would like to bring back for the next year. I am sure Mr. Sklute, did in fact review his dancers in this way. The audition segment was probably put together as a way to introduce the concept of the contract renewal process to the viewers. I find no fault in this, as it was realistic enough and was captured in a tasteful way.
On “contract day” most of the dancers received letters informing them about their future positions in the company. Two of the show’s featured dancers are called in for a meeting with Mr. Sklute: Bekanne Sisk and Katie Martin. I really appreciated the conversation that Mr. Sklute had with Bekanne, the 19-year-old company newcomer. He seemed so honest and open, explaining that he wanted to promote her, but not push her too far too fast. “Being a demi-soloist comes with a lot of responsibility,” he told her, discussing the importance of being a role model despite her young age. This is the kind of conversation every dancer dreams of having with their Artistic Director.
Bekanne exits the office thrilled, as Katie enters nervously. Her meeting does not go as well, as she is informed that she will not receive a contract for next season. She immediately begins to tear up. This moment really hit home for me. This, in contrast to the first meeting, is the conversation every dancer dreads. It’s as if you are watching all of your hard work going down the drain and having your career placed in limbo. Even worse, she had to receive this dreaded news, while being filmed for a national television show. The producers placed her in the empty theater to sob with sadness and disappointment. Very cliché.
The dancers who received contracts, are set to return their paperwork to the administration in episode two. Soloist Ronnie Underwood, is feeling unsure about committing to another year without a Principal title, when he “has been dancing Principal roles.” (Again, somehow I feel this is drama that the producers pulled out of him.) He sits down at a bar with other dancers in the company for an awkward conversation about deciding whether or not to sign his contract. I can assure you, a Soloist in a company does not complain to his friends in the Corps de Ballet about their disappointment over not being promoted to Principal. (At least I hope no one does that.) So, another facilitated conversation and possibly a facilitated situation, as in the end Ronnie realizes that Ballet West is in fact the company for him.
In week two, Katie embarks upon her first company audition, leaving dancer boyfriend, Ronald, back at the Ballet West studios. She calls him ecstatic after learning she has been offered an apprenticeship with Ballet Idaho. Though the show is in fact getting involved in this couple’s personal life, this is a reality that a lot of dancer couples go through. Dancers often find themselves moving to different companies in different parts of the country, sending their relationships into panic mode. With this relationship, I am sure the producers were looking to show interesting drama, but they may have unknowingly stumbled upon one of the biggest challenges that dancers face in their personal lives.
The show’s other couple, Allison and Rex, seem to have a complicated relationship. This is a situation I am going to steer clear from as it is extremely hard for me to tell what is real and what has been tweaked for the show. Again, I will give them all the benefit of the doubt.
We meet the dancer’s Physical Therapist in episode two, revealing the strain elite activity puts on the body. This scene was very well done and very realistic. We all live and die by Physical Therapy; most dancers will tell you it is the most important element of their career. However, I don’t think I have ever seen a Physical Therapist putting a bandaid on the top of a dancer’s foot. We usually are left to fend for ourselves on that one. But again, it makes for good TV. Nothing like a little blood to make us seem tough!
All and all, I think if you take the dancers’ conversations and personal interactions with a grain of salt, this show has the potential to give people a relatively accurate look into the world of ballet. I do hope the show continues down the same road they have taken in the first two episodes. Being on a large network like the CW, the show is sure to provide invaluable exposure for Ballet West and the ballet world as a whole.
In the end I must say, keep it classy CW: you’re not doing too bad so far.
Readers- Are you in Ballet West or know someone who is? I would love to hear more about how Breaking Pointe was filmed and what you think about it. You can either leave a comment here, or email me directly at email@example.com. Not associated with Ballet West at all? I still want to know what you thought of the show! Sound off here!