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Flesh and Bone: Fact or Fantasy?

If you’ve seen the opening credits for Flesh & Bone you already know they are nothing short of stunning– and they do exactly what they are supposed to: Leave you wanting more. Here it is if you haven’t yet seen it:

I’m sure I’m not the only one who tuned in for the premiere episode this past Sunday night (although I had to work a little to find it streaming since I don’t have a TV) and I’ve been following (with interest) the comments and critiques in the media this week. For anyone familiar with creator Moira Walley-Beckett’s past work–Breaking Bad–the dark, gritty element of Flesh and Bone should come as as no surprise. But the question on most peoples’ minds seems to be, “How realistic is the show? Is this what it’s really like to be a professional ballet dancer?”

Well, yes and no. Flesh and Bone‘s Ben Daniels, who plays the Artistic Director of the fictional American Ballet Company, is unpredictable, nasty, sarcastic and demanding. The other dancers struggle with drug addictions, and mild to moderate forms of Turrett’s Yes, ballet is one of the most competitive job fronts on the planet, which can lead to addictive behaviors and abusive people in positions of authority.  So it follows that yes, it’s a hard life and people are not always kind to one another. Does a television drama hyper-exaggerate? Ahem, that would be another yes.

However, I told another dance friend that as I watched the show I remembered and re-experienced that grittiness and it left me feeling a little nauseous…because it is part of that life. In fact, my dance friend and I have entertained one another on several occasions by sharing abusive ballet horror stories…you’ll just have to trust me when I say that fact is even more surreal than fiction.

Flesh and Bone hits the grittiness factor dead-on … but I had trouble with a couple of other details…the reasons I have to say no in terms of complete accuracy. For one, it’s completely unbelievable that our lead character Claire (portrayed beautifully by actress/professional ballet dancer Sarah Hay) would leave home, get hired the next day after attending a cattle-call audition and then become a prima ballerina on her first day with the company. Sorry, but anyone who’s lived the life knows it takes years to move up from the bottom… and everyone starts at the bottom unless they’ve already established themselves as solo dancers with other companies. This part of the plot made me roll my eyes, although I understand that the show needs to cover a lot of ground quickly….it’s only an hour.

My other issue, without giving too much away: The reason Claire runs away has a pretty high ick factor…

Read more opinions from other real dancers in this recent article or better yet, check out the first episode here (for free!) and decide for yourself.

I’ll be interested to hear what you think!

 

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Here’s dancer/actress Sarah Hay discussing “Flesh and Bone“:

What Ballet Life is Really Like

Whenever I meet someone for the first time, one of their first questions is, “What was it like to be a professional ballet dancer?” Ballet is in the public eye like never before, yet movies like Black Swan and shows like Breaking Pointe tend to focus on the gritty side of dance, and are at times extreme. It’s difficult to explain what something is like to someone who’s never personally experienced it, but I can sum it up with one line:

Ballet is a hard life.

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No other job on the planet requires so much time and energy with so little pay…and it’s one of the most competitive fields in existence. Out of the 2000 dancers who audition each year for the School of American Ballet’s Summer Intensive, only a handful are chosen to become permanent students. Out of the 200 permanent students only 20 are hired for professional ballet companies around the world. These figures give a whole new meaning to the term “the one percent.”

Although ballet is a difficult life it’s not without its perks. Fellow dancers feel like family (maybe slightly dysfunctional, but show me one that isn’t), there’s often the opportunity to travel (and someone else pays), and the experience of working towards perfecting your art is satisfying on an entirely different level than most jobs.

Lastly, choosing a life in dance pays off for the rest of your life in unexpected ways, from living fully in your body and treating it respectfully to understanding and applying the principles of hard work and dedication to everything you do.

So yes, ballet life is hard, but so is everything that’s worth doing.

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Ask Indigo: How to Stop Self-Sabotage

Halloween is just around the corner, which usually makes me think about dark, scary things, but then I realized these things are only real in our minds. Our minds are really good at conjuring up dark, scary things. All too often they are negative thoughts about ourselves…because, aren’t we all our own worst critics? Think about it–you would never be half as mean to another person as you are to yourself inside your own head. Crazy, right?

It doesn’t have to be this way. How much better would life be if we were nicer to ourselves?

So how to end the cycle of self-sabotage…let’s begin with comparison and its sister-cousin, competition. Part of the reason we’re down on ourselves is because we think we don’t measure up. Human have this weird tendency to look around and think other people have all the answers or are doing things better. You might think, “Rebecca is an amazing turner. I’ll never be able to turn like she does,” and you would be right… because only Rebecca can turn like Rebecca.

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Every one of us is different from the rest. It’s as if we all have our own unique frequencies, kind of like personal radio stations. You can’t really compare indie rock to bluegrass, although you might prefer one over the other (God knows I do), because they’re not at all alike. Same goes for your friends. For example, Ashley might be a really good listener, Monique is always good for a laugh, and Sam knows the inner workings of the universe because he always has his head in a book. You can’t possible compare these relationships because they each bring something different to your life.

You can’t compare yourself to other people, either. The problem with comparison is this: every time you get caught in the comparison trap, you’re taking energy away from your own process. How will you ever perfect your fouettés when your mind is busy watching someone else?

You won’t.

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The only way to truly shine is to fine-tune your personal frequency turn the volume up. That, my friends, means keeping your mind on what you are doing and the steps you can take to do it better–not better than Rebecca–but better than you were able to accomplish yesterday.

Your frequency, your process. Tune in and turn it up.

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Behind the Scenes With Post:Ballet

It’s a Thursday evening and Post:Ballet‘s Robert Dekkers in is five places at once. He’s in discussion with his lighting designer, conferring with dancers, and bringing me up to speed about some of the collaborators he’s working with this season. He cues the music with his phone and the dancers run through DoBe:Family Sing-a-Long and Game Night, Dekkers’ newest work, (due to premier at the end of July), bodies playing off each other in a tangle. There’s humor, exaggerated facial expressions, even partnering role reversal, with the women doing the heavy lifting.The choreography includes elements of games like charades and red light/green light set to a score that revisits singing and nursery rhymes. Read More »