Reality or reality TV

Last year, when Breaking Pointe reached it’s performance episodes, I was amazed by the realism. It brought back memories of production week and performance night, especially when we perform The Nutcracker, which I believe is the closest we come to what it’s like to be a professional dancer.

We perform Nutcracker seven times in four days (two shows a day except for the Sunday finale. We have intense rehearsals the Saturday before the performances and move into the theater with spacing rehearsals on Sunday and practically live there the rest of the week.

That’s why last night’s episode of Breaking Pointe didn’t seem quite as real as it was reality TV. It almost gives you the impression Cinderella (a very difficult ballet from what I’ve heard) was almost thrown together at the last minute … and that everyone is dealing with personal drama when they take the stage.

Maybe it’s because I dance with a younger crowd, but I don’t recall a whole of lot personal drama keeping a performance from coming together.

And by the time we stagger out of that intense rehearsal on Saturday, we’re pretty much ready. We know our parts, although you wouldn’t know it by how much we rehearse in the wings before going on stage.

Come tech week, you can almost make an argument we’re over rehearsed. Many of us who’ve done the same parts in previous Nutcrackers don’t really have to think about it … We KNOW it.

Yes, there are sometimes wardrobe malfunctions, and problems with props or sets. Those things do happen. While I don’t believe anybody can say they had the perfect performance, I don’t really recall any disaster moments either. 

Yeah, there are mistakes perhaps the most skilled ballet watcher may notice, like Christiana coming out of pointe during her pas with Rex, but most in the audience wouldn’t recognize the mistake. And there are occasionally mistakes people will notice, such as our snow queen slipping on a piece of confetti on stage during Snow and falling on her butt, but those are usually rare.

And usually when they do happen, dancers usually get back up and keep going.

But I don’t know of anyone who will blame mistakes on problems going on off stage. Yes, I know it happens. But most of the people I’ve danced with have been pretty good at blocking those off.

I’ve gone into Nutcracker (and other ballets) with stress going on from work or home, but once I’m on stage, I tend to block things out pretty well and let the adrenaline take over.

The one thing I found very real from the episode? I’ve know dancers who got hurt at the last minute and had to be replaced. That’s happened at least three times. One girl slipped off pointe and broke her arm the week before we did Dracula. The girl dancing lead Arabian sprained her ankle during our last Saturday rehearsal and another girl got hurt right before Billy the Kid.

And their understudies did great.

I’ve also known dancers who went ahead and danced despite their injuries. The guy who danced lead Russian for us last year did so with an injured shin. One of our cavaliers danced with a hurt shoulder.

Both did great, but both dealt with the injuries afterwards, especially the one with the injured shoulder.

Sometimes, when it comes to Breaking Pointe, you have to ask yourself: “Is this real, or just reality TV?”

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5 responses to “Reality or reality TV

  • RO

    Must be so exciting to get all fired up before a big performance with a big company! I only know the stage from our small demos and two-yearly performances.

    And as they say, the show must go on!

  • Kristen Gillette

    Frustrates me so much that they pretended that every shot they took was from opening night, when Christiana and Rex were cast 2. And that shot of Allison calling Jonathon was so faked, because Christiana had different eye makeup on for a different role.

    If you’re on Twitter, I’d recommend following Adrian Fry, as it’s kind of hilarious when he points out everything that’s false about what the producers have put together for the “reality show”!

    • Dancescribe

      I’ll do that! The thing that disappoints me the most is that they could at least show just a couple of minutes
      of them performing a variation. I know that have to show the “drama” for non-ballet people.

      I read a review of their opening night not long ago. The dancers who performed that night (and aren’t on the show) knocked it out of the park from what I understand.

  • The Dancing Rider

    So agree with you, Dancescribe! I believe crafting everything to show as much drama as possible is done for their ratings. Really enjoyed your entry.

    Say, I just reblogged a very interesting interview about a male ballet dancer you might find intersting. I did. My entry should appear in the WP reader.

  • Terez Mertes

    >I read a review of their opening night not long ago. The dancers who performed that night (and aren’t on the show) knocked it out of the park from what I understand.

    Omigosh, this is an astonishing thought to ponder. That class A dancers there are getting less buzz b/c they’re not on the show. Wow, talk about something that would divide the company. Really, while the whole thing has been wonderful in expanding ballet’s audience, you can’t help but think it’s turned Ballet West into more of a circus. I dunno. I could be completely off the mark here, and maybe their revenues are soaring, subscriptions inconceivably better, b/c of all this. But when those cameras pack up and roll away, wow, there is going to be a confused energy (and egos) hanging over THAT company.

    Enjoyed reading your post, LoveBallet! And Kristen, I’m going to go check out Adrian Fry on Twitter. Thanks for mentioning that.

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