Series goes behind the stage curtain for an intense, unfiltered look at one of the most competitive ballet companies in the country, Ballet West, in Salt Lake City, Utah. Beneath the beauty... See full summary »

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 Herself (6 episodes, 2012)


Series goes behind the stage curtain for an intense, unfiltered look at one of the most competitive ballet companies in the country, Ballet West, in Salt Lake City, Utah. Beneath the beauty and glamour of the dance and costumes is a gritty dog-eat-dog world of extreme athleticism, focus, dedication, passion, pressure and, of course, the hunt for the unattainable perfection Written by CW

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Seems a smart move by one of the best regional ballets.
7 June 2012 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

I've only done a quick pass so far through the first two episodes (produced by the BBC) and they seemed a little high key, but interesting and not totally out of line with Ballet West's YouTubes which focus well on rehearsals and ballet development.

BW's artistic director talks on some of them and they help to personalize the dancers, who can sometimes feel that no-one picks them out on-stage. They depict a company which works hard and sticks to the classical standards on-stage.

Ballet companies of all sizes are trying new kinds of promotion in this tough economy, with so much other entertainment now out there. European and US ballet companies generally have been in a somewhat precarious position and even ABT and NYCB laid off dancers for a while in the downturn in 2009. Some companies have since done without orchestras though Ballet West still has one.

For the moment the number of well-paid dancer positions (probably in the US below 500) doesn't seem to be growing, and the audiences are not yet really diversifying.

A national survey was presented to a dance management workshop in NYC recently which showed that overall seat sales for ballet in the US have now slipped below 30% of total budget. Maybe half of that seat revenue comes from the Nutcrackers. The rest is made up by local government (ballet can be a real asset for cities), foundations, benefactors, and fund-raising galas, all demanding and none of them forever.

Now we get to see ballet fighting back. :-) My guess is the potential for an explosion of interest in ballet is there. The movie Black Swan which this show seems an extension of was a bit bizarre but it reached an audience far wider than ballet normally does. The ABT's soloist Sarah Lane did most of the hard dancing in that as the double for Natalie Portman.

Ballet West is about the same size and offers the same kind of mostly classical-ballet programs and training as say the Anaheim, the Memphis, the San Diego, and the Tulsa. All the companies of that size and most of the larger are doing sometimes peculiar new things to pull in bigger crowds.

Anaheim is perhaps the most way-out in promotion: check their YouTubes. They do ballets in strange places which some other companies (Pacific Northwest in Seattle, and Hamburg, and English National Ballet, and the new Angel Carrera company in Madrid) are also doing. I for one like them.

Many companies are traveling more. This month in New York we have the best-ever two-month ABT season (an amazing Onegin last night with a cast to die for: Gomes, Vishneva, and Osipova) and City Ballet next door at Lincoln Center with dozens of new ballets, and in a few days the Australian National and next month Paris Opera Ballet will be here.

The Mariinsky from St Petersburg was in NY a few months ago, and soon after, they simulcast a very good 3D Giselle with Osipova in the lead role in theaters around the world. English National Ballet have done a Swan Lake in 3D. YouTube now offers 3D so 3D videos of ballet could appear there soon, and probably most new ballet DVDs will be in 3D. (Hint: it's awesome.)

Personalizing the ballet dancers and the creative process which we see here in Breaking Pointe can resonate really well and could be the best response to the question at the end of Jennifer Homan's recent history of ballet (Apollo's Angels): Is ballet over?

I'm not Mormon but I like Salt lake City and it is serious about its culture. So good luck Ballet West. I for one hope this venture does okay. Ten stars for trying.

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