Breaking Pointe (TV Series 2012– ) Poster

(2012– )

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Inside the World of Ballet
atlasmb28 August 2013
Being a fan of reality shows and dance, this show was a natural for me. It profiles the Ballet West dance company out of Salt Lake City, and follows certain individuals in the company.

We have all seen the traditional stories about dancers and their struggles (Center Stage, The Turning Point, etc.) in movies. Here is the chance to go behind the scenes with real dancers and discover the truth. As it turns out (no pun intended), their daily lives are filled with the same issues we all face, but everything in their lives is dance-centric, as it must be.

Dance is a profession that melds athleticism and art. It is more demanding than most jobs because it requires discipline, self-examination, and an all-encompassing dedication.

Breaking Pointe, in its second season, has focused on about seven dancers. And always in the background is the drama of creating a performance for a paying public. The company must stage the demanding Cinderella ballet on schedule. At the same time, the dancers deal with issues like working with your spouse, having to decide between career or relationship, injuries that are debilitating, and injuries that must be borne.

And let's not forget the fact that annual reviews are hanging over everyone's heads. Dancers work under annual contracts, so every year they deal with the stress of not knowing what the next season will bring--renewal or termination. And because dance companies are very hierarchical, the dancers seek affirmation every year. "Will I get promoted to soloist? How long must I remain an intern? Can age and injuries threaten my position as a principal dancer?"

As with other professional athletes, there are only so many employers. This further complicates the lifestyle of a dancer, who may have to pack up and move to another state if he cannot continue at his present jobs.

Knowing all this, it is with great respect that I watch these dancers negotiate their problems. Some comments on this site are very critical of some of these dancers, sometimes even criticizing their physical characteristics. In my opinion, they are all beautiful. They have nearly perfected their beautiful instruments in pursuit of a beautiful illusion--that their performances are effortless.

For any reality show, reality is abridged whenever an edit is made. But I feel that the producers of this show are attempting to show us the drama of these lives in a balanced way.

How can one not feel for Chris and Christiana, principals dancers, whose marriage may be damaged by the dynamics that define it? Or Allison, whose fiancé may demand she leave the company to prove her love? Or Ronnie, the soloist whose foot injury has sidelined his career until he can rehab enough to perform the most demanding jumps?

All of this drama is offset by the moments of beauty: The exquisite precision of a spin, the ornate costumes, the classic lines of the dancer's body at work or in repose.

Breaking Pointe also shows the dancers at play, diffusing the daily stresses.

In all, we get a comprehensive look at the world of a dancer. Any young dancer who contemplates the lifestyle of ballet should watch this show.
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Smarter and sweeter than the average reality show (plus killer dancing!)
prufrockja11 June 2012
Warning: Spoilers
I'm a lifelong Salt Lake-area resident, former (ten-year) student of ballet, and occasional season subscriber to Ballet West, so I've been quite interested to see what this Ballet West reality show would turn out to be. Ballet West is an old and much-respected company and its dancers' personal lives are frequently commented on locally--the unusually high count of married couples in the company, in particular--and so I'm not surprised that they were deemed strong subjects for a ballet reality show. The obsessive ballet world was ripe for reality show treatment, and so far I'm glad that our local dancers were chosen for the job. (Another selling point: reality show subjects with ties to Mormonism/Utah seem to be Hot Stuff in TV Land. I think network executives have discovered the fierce viewer loyalty Mormons provide anyone they perceive as being connected to their culture, even indirectly.)

Of course, a more documentary treatment of ballet would have been preferable--there are some standard reality show elements in Breaking Pointe that made me laugh out loud. For starters, suspicious editing practices: was that shot of principal artist Christiana Bennett scowling really a reaction to the new girl's praised performance, or completely unrelated? There's some typical forced conversation and amplified drama: does the real Allison really walk up to other dancers unprovoked and mockingly reduce their superior abilities to fat, sturdy ankles? I doubt you'd survive long professionally with such behavior, unless you've been cast as the Villain and charged with the task of stirring up on-screen mischief. And there are also a few too-convenient symmetries, as the envied rising star and her only close friend are promoted and canned, respectively. Did company director Adam Sklute choose which handful of dancers to feature based on the drama of the particular fates he already had planned for them? Or maybe he fired Katie for no other reason than to provide a nice dramatic contrast to Beckanne's good fortune, as well as the side benefit of romantic tension in parting Katie from her dancer boyfriend? Though I was not surprised to see such familiar reality show devices in the show, I was a little disappointed.

But I can't compare a reality show airing on a crappy minor network to Great Documentary Cinema, and for all its flaws I think this show must sit somewhere near top of the reality show heap. I was glad to see that the producers haven't tried to impose a general cat fight vibe on the company--a rare thing in the reality show world, where the assumption is that viewers tune in to see real or fabricated animosity between the characters. Except for Villain Allison (whose evil seems a bit forced, as I already mentioned), the dancers come across as driven and ambitious but ultimately good-natured and occasionally self-deprecating. Overwhelmingly likable. I certainly want to believe the best of these people: I have a fondness for them after watching them onstage for years--Bennett in particular--so it's great to see that this is a better-than-average reality show and portrays the dancers as being better-than-average human beings. The dancing here is beautiful and the dancers are quite articulate in explaining their world, and so if I can make it through next week's Ballet Babes Gone Wild bikini episode without being fatally annoyed, I expect I will enjoy the rest of this series very much.
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Seems a smart move by one of the best regional ballets.
peterquennell7 June 2012
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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Endless talk, mostly about personal relationships
kenalbertson2 July 2012
I had hoped to see some of the behind the scenes training, dancing, and issues that come up in a dance company, particularly a ballet company. Sadly this show falls far short. Of the eight or so people spotlighted, we hear them talk endlessly about their "significant other" as well as their progress in the ballet company. Snippits of dance are scattered here and there in the program, rarely more than ten or fifteen seconds at a time. There is a trend in reality shows to inject some drama into the reality, but this show is all drama to begin with and boring, repetitive drama at that. This show could just as easily be about circus performers, or an acting troupe with only a small amount of editing required.
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A Gem of a Reality Show
This show is great and filled with interesting (but not unrealistic) stories about 7 of Ballet West's dancers. Its also putting ballet back in the mainstream eye (though its ratings are low) and is offering us a real look at how hard the industry is to succeed in. I have been glued to this show since the first episode, but I must say that episodes 3 and 4 are better than episodes 1 and 2 cause 3 and 4 contain more dance with the same consistent amount of reality TV drama. Every person on this show is talented and deserving; and I really hope the show gets a second season cause it would be a shame to see one of the highest quality reality shows slip through the cracks. If you haven't checked it out definitely look it up (you can watch all the already aired episodes legally on the internet) and give it a chance, especially if you have a love for dance like me.

Some notes on the 7 dancers (no episode spoilers, just brief bios/intros and personal opinions). Beckanne Sisk is a very young (19) up and coming dancer who blows everyone away with her ridiculous talent. Shes really good friends (and roommates) with Katie Martin. Katie is in a relationship with fellow ballet west cutie Ronald Tilton. I love Katie, she's really sweet and funny. Ronald, Katie's boyfriend, is super lucky in that he also gets to work alongside his brother Rex Tilton at Ballet West. Rex is sortof dating Allison Debona. Allison is SUPER career focused and I really sympathize with her on the show, but some people find her irritating...personal preference (and only bad edit?) I suppose. Christiana Bennett is one of the principal dancers at ballet west. Christiana seems like a great person and she dances sooo effortlessly (though we know shes gotta be in pain and struggling). And lastly there is Ronnie Underwood. Ronnie is a MAN...No really that is how they sell him on the dude. He's pretty hilarious to watch as he struts his stuff like a hot peacock.
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Passion. Sacrifice. Obsession. This is the competitive world of Ballet
onmydvr10 June 2012
Warning: Spoilers
See the original Keep or Delete Review at Breaking Pointe, Episode 101, "Survival of the Fittest" Passion. Sacrifice. Obsession. A description of TV watching? Sure, but for purposes of this Keep or Delete, we are talking about the art of ballet.

I am a casual fan of dance. I have never particularly researched or delved into the nitty gritty of what it takes to be a world class dancer at an elite ballet but I know enough to know its physically grueling and emotionally and physically punishing. I know that the lifespan of a dancer is criminally short and that assumes a career free of major injury. Knowing these broad strokes, I have always been able to enjoy the art of dance as a magical experience; that people can do such contortionist movements with their bodies seems unnatural to me while being undeniably beautiful at the same time. With the premiere of The CW's Summer show, Breaking Pointe, the curtain has been pulled back on the magic trick and for six weeks, cameras were able to capture the proverbial sausage being made. Taped in Salt Lake City, Utah at the home of Ballet West (also, sometimes referred to as the Salt Lake City Ballet Company), Breaking Pointe is shot in a clean, documentary format style, reminiscent of something you would expect to find on a cutting edge PBS piece or an A&E special from the mid-90s.

In this day and age of reality television redux, one is wise to be skeptical of anything shot and edited and shopped as an honest portrayal of its subject matter, but, Breaking Pointe succeeds in setting aside those fears of being duped. There are some obvious stories being told(relationships, catty drama, career obstacles) through editing and "storylines" that will play out over the course of the series' mini run (it's a six part series) but the now clichéd "editing a personality" that so many reality show stars complain of seems to be well reigned in by the show's producers and I think we are getting as honest a look "behind the scenes" of a ballet company preparing for a new production, as you can ever possibly expect. And this makes Breaking Pointe unique among a sea of competition. I think the fact the show is produced by BBC Worldwide Productions helps explain, in part, this ability to avoid American reality show stereotypes. That the BBC allegedly auditioned approximately 15-20 different ballet companies before choosing Ballet West helps confirm there is something interesting about this particular group of people.

Why is the show worth watching? Well, on top of the subject matter being previously unexplored (at least I can't think of another non-fictional look at a ballet company's inner workings though, seriously, I was hoping Peter Gallagher's eyebrows would turn out to be the artistic director of Ballet West. Center Stage? Anyone? No? OK. Moving on. To be serious, the movie, Black Swan, is being credited in news reports covering the show for serving as the inspiration to want to set the record straight on the underpinnings of the ballet world), there aren't many serious reality shows (of any topic) that leave you feeling engaged and smarter for what you've just seen rather than dirty and dumber (MTV's Real World had this former quality back in its first and second seasons, The Catalina on The CW? The latter).

Of course, in this day and age of diminished expectations from TV, broadcast TV in particular and reality shows on broadcast TV to be even more specific, Breaking Pointe may ultimately suffer from being too smart for its own good. On the subject of the show's viability, the premiere pulled a 0.3 rating in the 18-49 demo and just over 900K viewers which is not promising but it's a CW show which always skews lower in ratings and so I think expectations are just different. By comparison, The Catalina, The CW's other Summer reality, "behind the scenes," show premiered the same week as Breaking Pointe and pulled almost identical final ratings numbers (though it had slightly more total viewers which says more about The CW viewership than the quality of the shows in question). After watching the pilot episode and seeing these ratings numbers, I can't help but think that the show would have performed better had it been on another network or on cable but there is nothing to be done about that now. Back to the show, what exactly is happening here? Breaking Pointe was filmed during the 2011-2012 season of Ballet West (which season has just finished in real time), a premiere ballet company based out of Salt Lake City, Utah, and follows the professional and personal lives of several members of the dance company as they negotiate the highs and lows of being a world class ballet dancer at an elite dance company. The pilot episode was heavy on introductions though I expect that subsequent episodes will delve more into the dance aspect of these people's lives with their social interactions being secondary to that principal goal of producing world class ballet. To set the stage, the pilot episode takes place the week that contracts are being given out (or not). As we learn, the ballet world is driven by one year contracts and that if you stall out in moving up through the ranks, you're more likely than not, going to be shown the door. With that background, let's meet this cast of talented characters: See the rest of the review at Keep or Delete? A resounding Keep!
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Not bad for a reality show
singingswiss7118 June 2014
This show is OK, you get to see a ballet company from the inside, which is interesting enough.

But on the other hand, I don't see any of them surviving one week in the Ballet de l'opéra de Paris or the Royal Ballet. They are not bad dancers, but surely not great ones and sometimes it is a bit awkward to hear big compliments for such dancing.

But to be honest, it is a regional ballet and also a reality show, you can't expect to have an étoile from the ballet de l'opréa de Paris.

If you like ballet and want an inside look in a company why not, if you are in for great ballet dancing I don't think you'll enjoy it as much, watch one of the many documentaries about ballet.
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