Last night marked the premiere of a whole new type of reality dance television series. We’ve grown accustom to competition shows like So You Think You Can Dance, but the CW Network’s new program Breaking Pointe is supposed to provide a introspective look into the lives of 7 dancers with Salt Lake City’s Ballet West.
My hopes were high, perhaps too high. I thought, “Here’s a chance for America to see that dancers may have unique career paths, but are relatable people, with other interests, hobbies, and an unrivaled work ethic.” But Breaking Pointe shows very little of the actual dancing or creative process and, instead, focuses on the romantic entanglements amongst these 7 dancers and their obsession with being perfect and the best.
Of course there is some truth in these stereotypes. It’s difficult to say whether ballet breeds perfectionism or individuals with meticulous tendencies are innately drawn to it, but the constant battle for perfection is always present. Yet, I don’t know if I’ve ever heard the word used so much within the span of an hour. At one point, Principal Dancer Christiana Bennett professes her reason for dancing is to achieve perfection. Really? The reason for enduring aches and pains, injuries, constant rejection and heartache is to be perfect. Personally, I view my nagging perfectionism as an obstacle in life I am constantly trying to overcome. It’s certainly not the reason I dance. The indescribable high I have onstage, when the bright lights warm my face and I feel a breeze from the rising curtain, that’s what drives me to return to the ballet barre each passing day.
But the neuroses don’t stop there.
The first episode highlights one of the most stressful times of a dancer’s season, contract renewals. Ballet West II dancer Kathleen Martin‘s anxiety eats away at her focus and concentration, making her obsess. “I just want to know either way,” she says repeatedly. For most of the dancers, the news is good. But we are left ‘guessing’ about the fates of Katie and Beckanne Sisk. Both ladies have meetings with the Artistic Director, Adam Sklute. The network tries to keep us guessing, but the outcome is obvious. Beckanne, who Sklute says he doesn’t want to push too quickly, receives a demi-soloist contract after one year in the company–so much for a gradual climb to the top. Poor Katie has to hear she will not receive a contract for the following season on national television (for dramatic effect, I’m sure). I felt awful for her. Contract meetings always made me sick to my stomach. To the point in which it didn’t matter if my director had good or bad things to say to me, I was bound to cry regardless from nerves alone. Now, Katie is faced with auditioning for other companies and her relationship with Ronald Tilton is placed in jeopardy.
Then there’s the director, Adam Sklute. He’s made out to be a decent guy, but I couldn’t get past one line he said, “dancers are special, but expendable.” Ouch! Of course this footage is shown in anticipation of him not renewing Katie’s contract, but his words contradict each other greatly.
Other characters emerge: Demi-Soloist Allison DeBona and her bizarre friends-with-benefits relationship with Demi-Soloist Rex Tilton (looks like we have an villainess for the season), Soloist Ronnie Underwood (who, with a money-matters-attitude and out spoken nature, I hope to see more of this season), and Beckanne Sisk (whose sick legs and feet and remarkable amount of potential draws hostility from more senior dancers).
In conclusion, I’m underwhelmed. There is very little dancing and the series relies heavily on the seemingly scripted personal drama. My fellow tweeters were all over the board last night, from “love it” and “my new summer obsession” to one dancer’s sigh of relief “better them than us,” and my personal favorite, “more like breaking wind.” I caught snippets of Jiri Kylian’s Petite Mort in the previews for next week’s episode, which rejuvenates a bit of my optimism for the series.
Join me next week! #BreakingPointe