‘Breaking Pointe’ Transitions into the American Definition of Reality Television

Posted by on 07.28.2013

Breaking Pointe returned last week for it’s second season, full of drama and new faces. Last year ballet fans across the internet expressed their desire for more rehearsal and performance segments in each episode, a desire that is seeming more and more far fetched. Now that the show has established some sort of notoriety, it seems that producers are feeling confident enough to make Breaking Pointe into the kind of reality show America has grown to expect. Now, Breaking Pointe really has all the facets of a true reality show: the drama queen, the villain, defined hierarchy, and serious injuries. With all these new elements, viewership is destined to grow. I anticipate that soon we will look back on the first season longingly; craving the cautious documentation that came with the start of the show.

Dance and ballet bloggers, such as myself, have been reviewing the first episode of the second season with many of the same sentiments we shared with our readers last season: less drama, and more dance. As America watches the show’s evolution, it’s becoming obvious that what really matters is the way the non-dance world is viewing the show. With this project, Ballet West‘s goal was to not only expand their audiences, but to expose more people to the world of ballet. As Breaking Pointe star Allison DeBona pointed out in my recent interview with her, “We originally set out on this endeavor to help rejuvenate the public’s interest in ballet and it feels like we are serving our purpose.”

So the question is, does it even matter how the ballet world is being portrayed on this show? If viewership does in fact grow with the increased amount of typical reality show drama, the show will in fact be exposing even more people to the art form who may have had no other way of experiencing ballet. This is a huge part of the ballet world’s outreach program, but is it succeeding?

" Episode #206" BREAKING POINTE PHOTO CREDIT: Erik ?stling/ THE CW ©2013 THE CW NETWORK. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

I find myself answering this question in a surprising way: it doesn’t matter anymore. My initial hope for the show was that their goal would be to depict what rehearsals are like, how ballets are set, and what it is like backstage. For a show to focus on depicting the everyday workings of a ballet company it would have to air on a network such as PBS, as a documentary. From the get go, the CW had a very specific vision for this show, and it has become entirely clear now that their vision was not in line with the ballet world’s hopes. Creating drama brings viewers back week after week, and the CW has no stake in an accurate portrayal of the ballet world. I find it so obvious what they are doing with the show, that America will look right through it. Everyone knows that reality shows are manufactured in one form or another, and it is very clear that Breaking Pointe is pandering to silly drama and serious injuries. The bigger point(e): the show is producing audience members who are now interested in ballet. So, I’ll take it. And look forward to a future ballet documentary on company life.

As a side note, it is extremely important to remember that the dancers may not be liking the way they are portrayed on the show. Words can easily be twisted by editing. So let’s give them all the benefit of the doubt and remember that they are hard working talented dancers who are dedicated to their art form. That’s what really matters.

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What do you think?

Do you think that Breaking Pointe is adapting to American reality show culture and by doing so expanding their outreach to the non-dance world? Do you know of any people who are not familiar with dance but watch the show and want to know more about ballet?

Sound off below:

5 Comments

  1. I’ve been away this summer and I am currently catching up on the “Breaking Pointe” episodes from the second season. As you mentioned, it seems to be the same as last season. More drama than ballet. I do find that the show shows some elements of our professional ballet dancer life, but our days are more focused on our jobs than the relationship drama the show portrays.
    I say, dancers from companies around the world get together and make our own dancer documentary!
    Happy Labor Day weekend.

  2. Wonderful blog, so well-put. I really enjoyed hearing your perspective about this, Rebecca. You are on my own site’s blogroll — I hope my readers follow the link over here as well.

    Looking forward to seeing more of your fine writing! (I gobbled up all your Paris entries two summers ago.)

  3. Something I was thinking about was the “character” casting that you mentioned. It does feel like the new featured dancers have been selected because they fit into a stereotype or dramatic story line.

    From reading other blogs and posts on Fb and Twitter, it seems that Zach, in addition to being the camp bitchy dancer, is also seen as the meddling villain. If Zach is the villain of season 2, who was the villain in season 1? They all seemed very likeable. Maybe it was the conductor?

  4. I think the CW have struggled to get the right balance. The season premier was evident of this and certainly a disappointment.

    In my opinion, I don’t think the show would be long lived if we didn’t get inside the lives of the dancers just a bit. People are curious and want to know about the dancers as people, not just beautiful dancing robots. However for the focus to be on the relationship drama is a disappointing choice.

    I particularly liked the Katie and Ronald story last season and didn’t mind the Allison and Rex drama. I felt it was a very integral part of understanding Allison’s breakdowns and moods in the studio and on stage.

    Have you seen “The Secret Lives of Dancers”? It has a similar format to “Breaking Pointe” with the inclusion of a narrator. The show follows the Royal New Zealand Ballet Company and features many of the same themes “Breaking Pointe” has but in a more balanced way.

    • LifeOfPia-

      They certainly have struggled. The CW is obviously making the move to get into the dancers personal lives and their drama, in order to keep the show going. As it was last season, I agree that the show would have been short lived. The dancers just didn’t allow the producers to see enough drama. This year they have found more “characters” that seem willing to open up about drama. It will be interesting to see if the show sticks around after this season.

      Thanks for writing in.

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  1. Thoughts on Breaking Pointe’s New Season | Adult Ballerina Project - [...] over how little ballet there actually was. I think Rebecca King captured how a lot of how I felt…

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