Name: Christopher Fleming
Current Residence: Philadelphia
Dance background: Joined American Ballet Theatre at age 16, then joined New York City Ballet a year later
Current position: Assistant director and resident choreographer at The Rock School in Philadelphia
Making a TV Show
Casting Call: After producers chose Mack Shane from the pool of applicants, they went scouting for a teacher who could turn Mack into a ballet dancer. Producers solicited dance instructors in the Philadelphia area and filmed them teaching class. “We need coaches who are colorful characters, and very knowledgeable in their fields,” says Bob Kusbit, the creator and executive producer of “MADE.” “With Christopher, we liked that he didn’t fit the stereotype of what people think a ballet instructor is like. Take him out of the dance environment and he could just as easily be coaching football.”
Partner Up: Fleming focused on teaching pas de deux, because Mack already had upper body strength. “If you have two guys with equal technique, and one is a better partner, who’s going to get the part?” Fleming asks. “I wanted to take the strength that Mack had and work with it.”
Candid Camera: “I was very comfortable being on camera,” says Fleming. “I had done enough television and film in my dancing career that it didn’t bother me. Also, I wasn’t going to change my teaching style for them.”
Final Exam: Fleming says he was more concerned than nervous during Mack’s final audition, in which Mack performed “Arabian Dance” from The Nutcracker in front of Rock School directors Bojan and Stephanie Spassoff. “Arabian has a lot of difficult lifts,” says Fleming. “If he messed up, he could have injured himself or his partner.”
Director’s Cut: Bojan says he was very impressed with Mack’s audition. “It was pretty amazing, how well he did in the end,” says Bojan. “He’s exceptionally coordinated, strong, sensitive as a partner and he has really good timing.” Mack went on to dance at his high school in a Rock School outreach performance.
Live Action: “We didn’t fake anything,” Fleming says. “We had to make [ballet] accessible without diminishing the training involved. Thanks to MTV, ballet will now be seen by a whole new audience of young people.”
Staying Power: “MADE” is currently in its fifth season on MTV. So far, the show has helped a handful of teens learn to dance hip hop or make their high school dance team, but Fleming’s episode was the first to feature ballet.
Dates and Times: Fleming’s episode aired on February 3. If you missed it, go to mtv.com/onair/made for a schedule of upcoming reruns.