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Breaking Pointe-- an ongoing discussion.


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156 replies to this topic

#16 miliosr

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Posted 01 June 2012 - 08:02 AM

Well, as someone who enjoyed the show, let me make the case for the defense and then everyone can tell me why I'm wrong.

When Black Swan came out in 2010, there was no small amount of criticism (including on this board) regarding how it presented ballet dancers as grotesques. In contrast, the first episode of Breaking Pointe portrayed the dancers as attractive, fit, hardworking, intelligent, ambitious, occasionally lovelorn young professionals who are doing something they love. Yes, certain scenes were set-ups (particularly the scenes with the dancers talking after they got their contracts). But those expository scenes weren't designed for the seriously confirmed ballet addicts who populate this board. They were designed to help the casual viewer make sense of the narrative. Was the CW underestimating the intelligence of the casual viewer? Maybe. But, by CW standards, I thought the show actually rose above a lowest common denominator mentality.

I also think a lot of truth came out over the course of the episode despite the heavy editing and staginess. We saw the extreme rank consciousness that exists in larger companies and how everyone is always looking to advance. (Even the principal Christiana, who had reached the top, was still seeking to "advance" by perfecting her art.) We saw how dancers (Katie, Allison, even Ronnie) may not be the best judge of what their rank should be or, at the very least, how the artistic director has to weigh a lot of competing demands. We saw a principal dancer (Christiana) being hyper-aware of time at 32, especially given the advent of a 19-year-old up-and-comer. We saw how precarious life can be for a dancer (Katie) and how the supply of dancers is greater than the demand. We saw that everything isn't always sweetness and light in a company (the "fat ankles" exchange, which I don't think for one minute was staged.) We even got to see two female dancers eating what looked like a nutritious meal! (I know the restaurant scene between Beckanne and Katie looked like something out of The Hills but this is one instance where I don't mind the staginess.)

I appreciate the documentaries/programs other posters have mentioned in this thread but, to me, those are boutique items for the already converted. If ballet wants to be something more than being a Gnostic sect in the 21st century, it needs to find a way to engage popular culture. (And by that, I don't mean staging productions of Peter Pan or Dracula or whatever else.) Breaking Pointe may not be perfect but, like Veronika Part appearing on the David Letterman Show and David Hallberg appearing on the Colbert Show, it is at least trying to engage the wider culture.

Give me a second to put on my flame-retardant suit and then everyone can flame away!

#17 Natalia

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Posted 01 June 2012 - 08:03 AM

Imspear, it's not as if they showed a lot...but the first episode began with the company's prima (Cristiana) rehearsing the beginning of Violette Verdy's solo (with the twirly arm movements at the start).

#18 dirac

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Posted 01 June 2012 - 09:38 AM

First Position, is how it should have been shot. Very well done and fantastic storytelling by letting it just happen.


I would hardly say Kargman "let it just happen," although I agree First Position is a nice movie. I didn't think last night's episode was so bad. It would have been good to see more dancing and perhaps in the next episodes we will see more. I would think the show would be of interest to any ballet fan and the project is worth attempting. I understand there will be more episodes after this initial series of six if the show does well enough.

#19 miliosr

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Posted 01 June 2012 - 10:05 AM

In the preliminary ratings, Breaking Pointe got an 0.3 in the 18-49 demo and just under 1 million viewers. Not great by any means but, given that renewed (and much higher budgeted) CW shows like Gossip Girl, Hart of Dixie and Nikita were getting 0.4s and 0.5s in the demo during the regular season, an 0.3 is OK for a 6-episode Summer series.

#20 dirac

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Posted 01 June 2012 - 10:39 AM

That's not bad, but I have a feeling the show is going to have to provide something jazzier than boy-girl issues and snipes at the new girl's fat feet if it hopes to hang on to the audience and add more.

#21 elena

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Posted 01 June 2012 - 10:44 AM

I liked it... reality tv is my guilty pleasure (yes I admit it!) and I love ballet so... I just take it with a grain of salt, it was pretty much what I was expecting. I do wish there was more dancing, but I also feel they must be trying to draw in people who don't usually watch ballet related things so it is a "happy medium" for the network.

#22 Andre Yew

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Posted 01 June 2012 - 11:07 AM

I thought the show was terrible. There wasn't much ballet (either for the bunheads and balletomanes or revealing the inner workings to the lay public), and the people in the show all come off looking as fairly terrible people and perhaps not great dancers, which is a shame for such a good company. I blame the producing team 100 percent for this.

The reality TV series on the Royal New Zealand Ballet done a few years ago did a much, much better version of this kind of show. We could relate to the dancers as people, and they showed the inner life of a ballet company.

In contrast, Breaking Pointe was a ballet-flavored soap opera.

#23 stinger784

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Posted 01 June 2012 - 11:15 AM

Thank you, Andrew Yew!

#24 puppytreats

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Posted 01 June 2012 - 11:31 AM

Well, as someone who enjoyed the show, let me make the case for the defense and then everyone can tell me why I'm wrong.

When Black Swan came out in 2010, there was no small amount of criticism (including on this board) regarding how it presented ballet dancers as grotesques. In contrast, the first episode of Breaking Pointe portrayed the dancers as attractive, fit, hardworking, intelligent, ambitious, occasionally lovelorn young professionals who are doing something they love. Yes, certain scenes were set-ups (particularly the scenes with the dancers talking after they got their contracts). But those expository scenes weren't designed for the seriously confirmed ballet addicts who populate this board. They were designed to help the casual viewer make sense of the narrative. Was the CW underestimating the intelligence of the casual viewer? Maybe. But, by CW standards, I thought the show actually rose above a lowest common denominator mentality.

I also think a lot of truth came out over the course of the episode despite the heavy editing and staginess. We saw the extreme rank consciousness that exists in larger companies and how everyone is always looking to advance. (Even the principal Christiana, who had reached the top, was still seeking to "advance" by perfecting her art.) We saw how dancers (Katie, Allison, even Ronnie) may not be the best judge of what their rank should be or, at the very least, how the artistic director has to weigh a lot of competing demands. We saw a principal dancer (Christiana) being hyper-aware of time at 32, especially given the advent of a 19-year-old up-and-comer. We saw how precarious life can be for a dancer (Katie) and how the supply of dancers is greater than the demand. We saw that everything isn't always sweetness and light in a company (the "fat ankles" exchange, which I don't think for one minute was staged.) We even got to see two female dancers eating what looked like a nutritious meal! (I know the restaurant scene between Beckanne and Katie looked like something out of The Hills but this is one instance where I don't mind the staginess.)

I appreciate the documentaries/programs other posters have mentioned in this thread but, to me, those are boutique items for the already converted. If ballet wants to be something more than being a Gnostic sect in the 21st century, it needs to find a way to engage popular culture. (And by that, I don't mean staging productions of Peter Pan or Dracula or whatever else.) Breaking Pointe may not be perfect but, like Veronika Part appearing on the David Letterman Show and David Hallberg appearing on the Colbert Show, it is at least trying to engage the wider culture.

Give me a second to put on my flame-retardant suit and then everyone can flame away!



You overstate the impact of seeing them order a meal in a cafe. They were not shown eating the meal, and it may have been all they ate all day, or it may have been removed.

On balance, I liked watching the show, even though I only saw the last half, and even if portions were objectionable or maybe unnecessary.

I watched this for the ballet, but mostly, I saw this as a show about young people learning and growing in handling their emotions, careers, aspirations, physical capacities, and relationships.

And from miliosr, we expect commentary on the fashion....

#25 miliosr

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Posted 01 June 2012 - 12:37 PM

You overstate the impact of seeing them order a meal in a cafe. They were not shown eating the meal, and it may have been all they ate all day, or it may have been removed.

True enough. Of course, given how Black Swan took it on the chin for its depiction of the relationship between ballerinas and eating, I thought the concept of eating (if not the reality) was presented in a positive light.

I watched this for the ballet, but mostly, I saw this as a show about young people learning and growing in handling their emotions, careers, aspirations, physical capacities, and relationships.

Exactly.

And from miliosr, we expect commentary on the fashion....

I didn't understand where Rex thought he was going in Salt Lake City with those red pants he bought. Oh, and did I mention Ronnie's chest? Posted Image

#26 Helene

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Posted 01 June 2012 - 01:47 PM

Oh, stinger, if infantile was the worst of how the dancers were portrayed :(.

#27 Drew

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Posted 01 June 2012 - 07:24 PM

My reaction was very much like Miliosr's. It's a reality show on the CW...allow for that and there you are; it's still an on the whole not unsympathetic look at the ballet world on network television. At least so it seemed to me. I would like to see more dancing and perhaps we will.

(I HATED Black Swan; the heroine was just psycho-crazy from frame one and her craziness hardly seemed to have anything to do with ballet as opposed to the mad-for-ballet, beyond-good-and-evil heroines of Mort du Cygne or must-dance-at-all-costs heroine of Red Shoes. And given her non-stop woe-is-me, terrified of all things, demeanor, one does not see how she could have lasted through an advanced ballet class let alone have made it into a ballet company. Though off topic may I add, too, (since I have not seen this anywhere else) that Portman's arms seemed awfully short for her to get cast as Odette-Odile when still an unknown dancer...What I mean is: I hated that movie.)

#28 LiLing

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Posted 01 June 2012 - 08:03 PM

Well, this is not a documentary. It is a reality show, and by now we know they are edited to fit what the network thinks makes good TV. That means conflict, tension, villains! The first episode presented a group of people full of stress and insecurity in what looked like a miserable work environment.
I am so tired of all the books and films in recent years that paint such a negative picture of dance as a profession. The few snippets of dance were enjoyable and I like the idea of a general audience being shown what it looks like up close in practice clothes. Real people can do this, not just fantastic creatures on a stage.
I hope coming episodes will show a lot more dancing.

#29 dirac

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Posted 02 June 2012 - 11:15 AM

Regardless of what anyone thinks of Black Swan, there's no question that its success brought some exposure to an art form badly in need of it - more than one artistic director has spoken of a post-Black Swan boost in interest.( I did like it better than most commentators here at BA.) Nor were all dancers uniformly negative about it at the time.

(Drew, I think Portman's short arms came up in the very long Black Swan thread. If I remember correctly she even mentioned them herself.)

The first episode presented a group of people full of stress and insecurity in what looked like a miserable work environment.


Yes. No doubt fear does concentrate the mind wonderfully, but contra Sklute, in my experience a workplace full of people constantly reminded that they're expendable is not a fruitful environment for getting the best from your employees.

#30 Drew

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Posted 02 June 2012 - 06:20 PM

Regardless of what anyone thinks of Black Swan, there's no question that its success brought some exposure to an art form badly in need of it - more than one artistic director has spoken of a post-Black Swan boost in interest.( I did like it better than most commentators here at BA.) Nor were all dancers uniformly negative about it at the time.

(Drew, I think Portman's short arms came up in the very long Black Swan thread. If I remember correctly she even mentioned them herself.)


The first episode presented a group of people full of stress and insecurity in what looked like a miserable work environment.


Yes. No doubt fear does concentrate the mind wonderfully, but contra Sklute, in my experience a workplace full of people constantly reminded that they're expendable is not a fruitful environment for getting the best from your employees.


I should think Ballet West is bound to see a rise in interest and ticket sales from Breaking Pointe--and there is at least a chance other companies may as well.

I'm not sure how to take anything anyone says in a reality show, but I completely agree about fear not being the best way to inspire people in any endeavor--people who feel expendable are often just plain demoralized.

(I must have given up on Black Swan thread and so missed discussion of Portman's arms.)


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