We'll even miss Beckanne's oversplit. OK, we'll especially miss Beckanne's oversplit. (Photo Erik Ostling/The CW)
Sad news, bunheads: The CW announced yesterday that it's curtains for "Breaking Pointe." The docusoap, which followed Utah's Ballet West, won't be back for a third season.
Let's be honest: Most dance fans had a pretty conflicted relationship with the show. A lot of us were irritated by the way the cast's interactions were manipulated for maximum drama, and disappointed by how little dancing actually made the final cut.
But here at DS, we're genuinely sad that "Breaking Pointe"'s run is over. It brought ballet—real, professional ballet!—to mainstream television. It earned some truly beautiful dancers, like Beckanne Sisk and Christiana Bennett, a well-deserved degree of fame. It showed us a whole lot of Frederick Ashton's amazing (and relatively rarely-seen) Cinderella. And while some of its plotlines were melodramatic, others—especially director Adam Sklute's hesitation about casting Josh Whitehead, the company's only African-American male dancer, in a comic role—addressed meaty ballet-world issues.
Farewell, "Breaking Pointe." We'll miss our weekly dose of professional ballet company life—however "real" or "unreal" it may have been.
Jamie Goodwin and Teddy Forance have a not-so-private conversation on the set of "All the Right Moves." (photo by Joe Toreno)
If you’re anything like us, you’re probably glued to the screen anytime a reality dance show is on. Then you might watch it over and over on your DVR, obsessing over your favorite parts. (No? Maybe that’s just us, then.) And, like any dance reality junkie, you’re probably dying to know the juicy secrets about how things really work behind the scenes. Wonder no more: We’re flipping the script and unveiling the top five reality show secrets. (Shhh! Don’t tell anyone.)
Reality Secret #1: Unscripted doesn’t always mean unscripted.
So how real are reality shows? It depends on the show, but in many cases, the stars might follow a loose script or even be fed certain lines by producers. Not everyone is always in on the storyline, either. For example, on “Dance Moms,” some moms know the plan and others don’t (making those “surprises” extra juicy). Time constraints play into it, too: When our DS insiders were on the “Dance Moms” set, they heard that dancers sometimes changed outfits several times a day to make studio scenes seem more spaced out, when really they’re all filmed within a 24-hour period. And “Dance Moms” isn’t the only show that enhances reality just a tad: on “So You Think You Can Dance,” sometimes the contestants are asked to reshoot their “I’m going to Vegas!” reactions to make them more over the top.
"Usually when someone's filming a rehearsal in one room, the rest of the kids will be in the other room having dance offs," says Maddie Ziegler, above, of "Dance Moms." "We listen to music and jam out." (photo by Nate Powers)
Other dance reality shows, like “Breaking Pointe,” are a bit more true to life. “Breaking Pointe” executive producer Izzie Pick Ashcroft says the cameras at Ballet West rehearsals are purely observational, as that’s one of the conditions of being allowed to film there. “We can film class, but we can’t produce it or ask people to do anything over again,” she shares. “We just have to hope and pray there’s a story in there.” (And there almost always is!)
Reality Secret #2: On dance competition shows, things move at lightning speed behind the scenes.
Since shows like “SYTYCD” and “Dancing with the Stars” debut new routines every week, a new show is set in motion as soon as the cameras stop rolling on the last one. To succeed, contestants must thrive amid the fast-paced flurry of activity. (By finale week on “SYTYCD” Season 10, the remaining contestants were put on IV fluids to keep their energy up.) “The question is: Can you work under that pressure and still deliver a quality performance?” says choreographer Tyce Diorio.
Vegas Week on "So You Think You Can Dance" is just as grueling as it seems on TV. (photo by Adam Rose/FOX)
A typical week on “SYTYCD” goes like this: After Tuesday’s taping/live show, the process starts all over again. On Wednesday, the choreographers figure out their concepts, lighting, costumes and music for the next week’s routine, and the contestants learn the choreography on Thursday and Friday. “They only get seven hours with us to perfect the routine,” Diorio says. Contestants spend weekends working on the group routines and practicing on their own, and on Monday, they rehearse onstage for the producers. Come Tuesday, it’s dress rehearsal and show time!
“DWTS” couples have a bit more time to practice, with unlimited studio time from Wednesday to Sunday. “Certain celebrities want to be in the studio nine hours a day, while others are OK with three or four,” says Chelsie Hightower, who mentions Helio Castroneves and Ty Murray as her hardest-working partners.
Reality Secret #3: Everyone involved must always be ready for changes.
Even the best-laid plans sometimes hit snags. Just ask Diorio, who found out at the last minute that the song he’d chosen for Will Wingfield and Jessica King’s contemporary routine in Season 4 wasn’t cleared to air. But his second choice turned out to be a lucky charm. “My backup song, ‘Silence,’ ended up being part of my Emmy-winning routine,” he says.
Real-life problems can also throw filming for a loop. For instance, when Ronnie Underwood from “Breaking Pointe” suffered a nasty foot injury, the producers had to scramble to follow the storyline. “Ronnie had his accident around Christmas, and suddenly we were all on the phone between Christmas and New Year’s trying to work things out,” says Pick Ashcroft. “Here’s one of the senior male dancers, who would have had a big role in Cinderella, suddenly out of the picture. We just had to follow that.” In the end, the show’s producers got even better drama for the show than they may have hoped for.
Reality Secret #4: You’re not necessarily guaranteed your spot from season to season.
Just because you’re in the cast one season doesn’t mean you have it made in the shade forever. For instance, the whole cast of “Breaking Pointe” had to show up for an audition interview to be considered for the second season. On recent seasons of “DWTS,” the producers have switched up the pros in the mix for every new go-round (giving fresh “SYTYCD” alums like Lindsay Arnold a chance to break in!). “It’s all about the celebrities and who [the producers] think will match up with them best,” Hightower says. “Things like age, personality and height all factor in—it’s very much a casting process.”
As for the “SYTYCD” All-Stars, many return season after season, but the producers choose who will be taking the stage based on availability, ability and rapport with the choreographers. “Some choreographers request people for certain pieces,” Hightower says. Diorio requested Kathryn for a Holocaust-inspired “Eli, Eli” piece with Chehon Wespi-Tschopp, and also for Season 10’s jazz piece with Paul Karmiryan. In the past, he’s also asked to work with Kent Boyd and Neil Haskell. “Those were three All-Stars I felt very connected to,” Diorio says.
During "SYTYCD" auditions, the days are long, there's plenty of drama and yes, the injuries are real. (photo by Adam Rose/FOX)
Reality Secret #5: Once the ink is dry, reality stars don’t really get any say in what’s shown on TV.
Out of all the hours of footage shot for shows like “Breaking Pointe,” there are probably some moments the stars wish they could erase—but they don’t get to decide what ends up on the cutting room floor. “As a human, you don’t want those things shown to the world, but as a participant in the show, it’s understood that once you sign the contract, nothing is off-limits,” explains cast member Allison DeBona. “In those moments, you have to remember that you signed up for this.” She adds that the stars also don’t get to watch the episodes before they air, so they see them for the first time along with the rest of the world.
Brace yourselves, bunheads: Season 2 of "Breaking Pointe" premieres one week from today. ONE WEEK! Let the countdown begin!
Actually, you don't even have to wait those seven long days for your next peek at the Ballet West reality series, because it turns out "Entertainment Tonight" got their hands on some footage from the second season. The clip follows the five ballerinas hoping to dance Cinderella in the company's upcoming production of the fairytale classic. Drama! Intrigue! Frederick Ashton's beautiful choreography! Adam Sklute pretending he doesn't already know exactly who will be dancing Cinderella at this point, but hey, he'll play along for the sake of the show!
Feast your eyes—then tune into The CW next Monday, July 22 at 9/8 c for the "Breaking Pointe" season premiere. Eee!
Heads-up, bunheads: "Breaking Pointe," the reality show following Utah's Ballet West, returns to The CW for its second season July 22. And thank goodness, right? It's one of the few mainstream portrayals of ballet that comes close to getting at the actual reality of the ballet world.
That said, because this is The CW we're talking about—you know, the network that brought you that soapiest of all non-actual-soap-operas, "Gossip Girl"—"Breaking Pointe" had plenty of drama last season, too. Did we love that side of the show, in theory? Not really. Could we stop watching it, in practice? Nope again.
The first trailer for "BP" round 2 just came out, and it's a drama-rama doozy. Ronnie is injured! There's a hot new dancer dude in town! Christiana might be feeling threatened by Beckanne! Allison and Rex are broken up...again!
On the plus side, there are hints of some pretty serious dancing going on, too. (Here's hoping season 2 includes quality footage of the company working on Balanchine's gorgeous Jewels, which they performed in April.)
Take a look!
I'm going to start this post with a disclaimer: I love me some "Breaking Pointe." I feel like it's one of the few mainstream portrayals of ballet that gets the feel of company life right. (Could I use a tad less drama? Definitely. But this is a show that airs on The CW, the network that brought us "Gossip Girl." I'll cut them a little slack.)
That said, when it was first announced that the show would follow Utah's Ballet West, a teeny part of me wished it were about one of the big NYC ballet companies. Casting controversies in Salt Lake City are one thing; casting controversies in the Big Apple, the center of the U.S.'s ballet universe, are quite another.
Readers: My dreams have just come true.
Yesterday, New York City Ballet announced that AOL On, AOL's online video platform, would begin airing an original docuseries following the company in September. "city.ballet" is produced and narrated by none other than Sarah Jessica Parker, a longtime NYCB fan (she studied at the School of American Ballet) and a member of the company's board.
And just watch this preview. Just. Watch. This. Preview. Drama? Glamor? Bloody foot close-ups? Pensive shots of NYCB dancers pacing the city's streets? Check, check, check and check. I can't wait.
By now you're probably addicted to the new ballet reality show "Breaking Pointe," which follows Ballet West. In the first episode our hearts broke as we watched Ballet West II dancer Katie Martin learn she wouldn't receive a company contract for the 2012-2013 season. As is usual with ballet contracts, she'll be finishing out the current season with Ballet West. But don't expect her to be moping around on "Breaking Pointe"--you'll see her auditioning and bouncing back. We caught up with Katie to learn more about what it's like to star in one of the summer's hottest shows.
Dance Spirit: What was filming like?
Katie Martin: Filming was really cool. You feel like a celebrity because there are at least three cameras on you at all times. I’ve gained a pretty large fan base, and they’ve been really supportive.
DS: Do you feel like you have been accurately portrayed on the show?
KM: The producers have done a fantastic job portraying who I am and what I stand for--especially how I’ve handled a lot of difficult situations.
DS: Did you have any idea that you wouldn't receive a contract?
KM: I didn't know anything officially, but I had a gut feeling that I might not get one. What you saw on TV was me finding out for the first time.
DS: What has it been like to go through this difficult time on TV?
KM: It's so hard! I cried with my mom watching the first episode. We both sat on the couch with a box of tissues. But I feel like all the press interviews have been really helpful. They've been like a bunch of "dear diary" moments. I've been forced to talk about the experience and how I've really been feeling.
DS: Do you think "Breaking Pointe" is an accurate portrayal of what it's like to be in a ballet company?
KM: "Breaking Pointe" does a great job showing America that ballet dancers are true athletes who work very hard. Of course, everyday life isn't as dramatic as the show, but when you're creating a television episode and all the filming is packed into one hour, it gets that way. Plus, ballet is a dramatic art. It's all about beating out every girl in the room.
DS: What has the audition process been like?
KM: It’s been really difficult—it’s not something any ballerina ever wants to go through. I was gone almost every weekend auditioning! I can’t talk about the outcome of the auditions at the moment, but it was ultimately a positive experience.
DS: How has the show affected your relationships with the other dancers?
KM: Thankfully I’ve been portrayed very nicely (I promise I really am a nice person!), but if anything my relationships have gotten stronger. It’s been really positive for [my boyfriend] Ron and me. It’s fun to hear him talk about me on the show, and we’ve gotten closer from seeing on screen how we actually feel about each other. Becks [Beckanne Sisk] is still my best friend and Ron’s still my boy.
DS: What is your dream role?
KM: Odette/Odile in Swan Lake or Juliet in Romeo and Juliet. I love a tragedy!
DS: Where do you hope to be in five years?
KM: I hope to be at least a soloist in a major ballet company. And I would love to be in Europe. I want to have built a substantial ballet career.
DS: What's your advice for Dance Spirit readers who aspire to professional ballet careers?
KM: My advice is to keep plugging away. You need to be able to look in the mirror at the end of each day and say, "I am beautiful. I can conquer anything. I can do this." Don't lose your confidence.
DS: Do you have an acting career ahead of you?
KM: I would love to have an acting career! No one's contacted me yet, but I would definitely be interested. Be sure to put that in.
It's the moment we've all been waiting for: "Breaking Pointe," the new CW series following Salt Lake City's Ballet West, premieres tonight!
I was lucky enough to get my hands on a screener copy of the first episode, so believe me when I say: You will be obsessed with this show. There's tons of behind-the-scenes drama—some of it dance-related (the first episode documents contract renewal day, and let's just say not everyone ends up happy), some of it not so dance-related (half the cast members are dating each other, so...). It's seriously entertaining.
And interesting. The show's mission, according to artistic director Adam Sklute, is to be "the antidote to Black Swan," disproving the movie's negative stereotypes. While a few small aspects of the show do seem a bit "Black Swan"-y (the opening includes dancers in dramatic spotlights, with a voice-over intoning "We do it to be perfect" ominously), for the most part "Breaking Pointe" seems to present ballet's joys and heartaches pretty realistically. It's nice to see Sklute talking about the instability of a dancer's life in a way that's sympathetic as well as candid: “I often have to make decisions that my dancers don’t like," he says in this episode. "It’s hard on them. But the best recipe for creating a hardworking and well-functioning dancer and artist is if all the dancers know that they are special, but also that they’re expendable.” (That's about as mean as he gets, by the way. No evil directors here.)
Can't wait for the premiere? Read our interview with cast member Beckanne Sisk about filming the series, and check out the preview below!
Ever wonder what it's really like to be in a ballet company? Go behind the scenes at Utah-based Ballet West this summer with "Breaking Pointe," a TV series documenting the passion and pain of professional dancers. We caught up with Ballet West artist Beckanne Sisk to find out about the filming process.
Dance Spirit: What was your reaction when you learned Ballet West would be participating in the show?
Beckanne Sisk: I was a bit nervous because I knew our lives would be out there for the whole world to see. Initially, I didn't want to be on camera--it made me really nervous. But once they started featuring and interviewing me, it was really cool and exciting.
DS: How did filming change your rehearsals and performances?
BS: We tried to forget the cameras were there. But they did motivate us--I made sure I was always wearing makeup! Contstantly having a camera on me made me really push myself. It's kind of quiet and unexciting now that they're gone.
DS: Give us three reasons why we should tune in.
BS: 1. Ballet isn't appreciated the way it should be because people don't understand it. The series will show how much we go through and how much we love it.
2. It's really entertaining--especially for dancers. They'll be able to relate first-hand to everything that happens.
3. Every little girl who's dreamed of becoming a ballerina will see there's so much more to being a ballet dancer than just performing beautifully and receiving praise.
We're convinced! The show premieres May 31. Can't wait? Watch the "Breaking Pointe" trailer here.
Ballet West artist Beckanne Sisk as Kitri in the 2011 production of Anna Marie Holmes' Don Quixote. Photo by Luke Isley.