Greetings from the OCTV bench, as I pinch hit for Bethany. As a lifelong fan of physical inactivity and artistic non-participation, I cannot lay claim to having the qualifications to judge the Ballet West team on their professional merits. On the other hand, I think my day job as a high school teacher give me a unique insight into the starved attention needs and “unusual” dietary choices of this band of misfit dancers
This week, the company made the final preparations before taking the stage in front of 2,000 Mitt Romney supporters at Salt Lake City’s Capitol Theatre. Keeping with the Mormon tradition, all of the dancers wore long, bizarre underwear. In fairness, those may have simply been their tights.
The episode opened with a rundown of the different pre-show rituals undertaken by the ballet’s featured performers. Ronnie, a young man carved by granite and maintained by semi-legal supplements, insisted that he followed no particular formula on show day. In a strange aside, Ronnie made it very clear that he did not own his own replica of the Jedi Master Yoda. Judging by Ronnie’s physique, I can hear a faint cry of the Star Wars icon telling him, “New cycle, you must begin. Soft your abs are looking.” Next, Christiana assembled her regular meal of an egg sandwich, made on a croissant with a slice of cheese. Christiana never breaks from this tradition, or her dessert of purging and self-loathing. Finally, young sensation Beckanne demonstrated that she simply likes to go shopping. Retail therapy is the best medicine to heal the wounds of being touched by your uncle at age seven.
I appreciate the producers’ instincts for trying to break the fourth wall of how these (admittedly) elite performers get “in the zone” for a performance. However, this particular segment felt out of place with the bizarro psychodrama that unfolded throughout the remainder of the episode. Give me nine more minutes of watching Allison freak out on her colleagues over this predictable reality dreck every time.
Before I continue my unfettered criticism of these malnourished prancing creatures, Artistic Director Adam Sklute needs to be complimented for representing the Ballet West company with distinction. Imagine yourself spending fifteen hours per day as a peer counselor for narcissistic mental patients. No, seriously. Close your eyes and pretend that you are Robin Williams in Awakenings and your patients are lecherous, slurring freaks with bad skin. Ok, got it? Now, imagine yourself trying to make money from that group of people. Yeah, that’s Adam Sklute’s life, and he seems to be a success at it. Take a bow, you glorious bastard!
Opening night is a showcase for the first cast, and that means Ronnie has a very big codpiece to fill. The one-in-a-million jock who is good with details, Ronnie exceeds expectations with his first lead performance in Paquita, a traditional ballet named after a rare crop of bananas. In fact, the entire company performs Paquita with flair, except for resident malcontent Allison. Brimming with anger after a rehearsal bitch fight with the conductor of the orchestra over tempo, Allison struggles in her debut and appears headed for a late night with her Metamucil stash.
As the evening transitions to the Emeralds piece, a gaggle of anorexic lilliputians advance towards the stage, looking like victims of the Irish potato famine, but sparkly. The featured performer, veteran dancer Christiana, flawlessly executes her solos, impressing both the live audience and her Artistic Director, who raves about the opportunities this show could open up for his star going forward.
The final ballet, Petite More, appears to be what would happen if battle scenes from Spartacus: Gods of the Arena were set to orchestral music. Mostly naked men with swords jousted (look out, ladies) across the expansive stage, toeing the line between dance and amateur porn with precision. Were it not for the trained footwork of Ronnie & Co, I would have expected the Octomom to show up in a tutu for the money shot.
With the company’s first night behind them, the program returned to its melancholy core, as Allison sat down with her visiting family to talk her personal problems to death. Though her mother and father have looked past their own divorce to come together to support her, and despite the fact that her two younger sisters were in town, Allison shaped the entire conversation around her poor performance and boys. Pressed by her parents to continue pursuing her ex-boyfriend, Allison was defensive and wretched. If audiences tune in looking for a character to hate, Allison is the show’s centerpiece.
Night two, when the second cast took center stage, was noteworthy for only one event. Rex, Allison’s on-again, off-again ballet beau, takes a face first tumble onstage, tripping over one of the swords used as phallic symbols in Petite More. Poor Rex, who could pass as Pete Sampras’ uncoordinated brother, employs the same “look at me” approach that makes Allison so difficult to watch. Following his pratfall, Rex berates the stage manager for his misfortune, providing the quote that I titled this recap with. You almost died, Rex? Did ya? Have you been watching Black Swan a few too many times, my powdered friend? Calm down. Take a Vicodin. Now take six more. Now you’re getting sleepy. Don’t run from the light. It’s there to help you stay on your feet when thousands of people are watching. Oh shit, Rex is dead.
Breaking Pointe is delicious trash. You can approach it as a admirer of the dancers’ dedication to their craft, a tribute to their love of cigarettes and kale, or as an affirmation of your choice to include complex carbohydrates in your diet. Whatever your strategy, give your local CW affiliate some love and tune in next week. SPOILER ALERT! One of the dancers might get moody.
What did you think of “Bad Dress, Good Show?” Were the performances up to your expectations? Do you find yourself empathizing with one of the dancers? Are Allison’s mood swings a net positive for the show’s watchability? Who do you want to see more of going forward? I cannot wait to make more eating disorder jokes in the comments section, so fire away!
Tags: Breaking Pointe