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“:

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