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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Television: Breaking Pointe on the CW-Season 1

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Again, where is the "Like" button here? :) I agree with Momof3darlings and Miss Leigh; I have never heard DD ever call any variation easy. She's not a rock star, so maybe that's why, but, knowing her personality, I'd say it's because she always does feel that there's more work to do, more to work on. This is true, whether it's a variation that fits well with her strengths or whether it doesn't; the things needing work are just different. As a musician, I find the same thing to be true; I don't consider anything easy.


I also need a "Like" button for the comments by julisha and burker. Allison did say that she quit ballet after her parents' divorce for some time (not sure why?), and then the article says that she only began her pro career at age 24 after college (but was she a dance major at a good dance program?) If so, she has managed to do very well as far as securing employment and some degree of favor there, but maybe her "Paquita" difficulties, if not contrived for TV, stem from some of those factors, as Miss Leigh suggested. This might not be the case, but the editing made it seem as if she were making a lot of excuses. I will reserve judgment and see how it plays out in remaining episodes. I thought she handled the hallway conversation with Mr. Sklute maturely, saying that the rigorous casting would be okay and that she would handle it.


Finally, I'm sure it was the editing, but it did seem as if Beckanne kept on repeating the same line endlessly: "I'm only 19; I'm the youngest." I feel much as swanchat does about that. I'm impressed that she has done so well at 19, but part of the maturity that she says she hopes to gain involves moving past that and not focusing on her age. The audience won't care how young or old she is; they will only care how well she performs the roles in all of their many facets. It would have been courteous of the older dancers to have included her more in the conversation at dinner, but I think that she was portrayed too much as a victim. There will be events and conversations in all of our lives where we won't be the focal point or won't have a lot to contribute, and that's just life. They might be envious, but at least they invited her along.

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To respond to pointeprovider's excellent post above, the Ballet West bio page says that Allison graduated from Indiana University with a BS in ballet.

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I found it interesting to hear Beckanne talk about the difficulty of fitting in with the older dancers. In the first episode, I'm pretty sure it was Christiana who mentioned that being the prima ballerina isolated her from the others in a way as well, because it set her apart, and she was aware that all of the other dancers wanted her position. I thought of these comments when reading another thread about developing emotional maturity in young dancers in intense training programs. Having the ability to manage personal relationships well -- and deal with the inevitable hurts that come with interacting so closely and personally with others for long periods of time -- is an invaluable skill. I thought it was sad to hear one of the dancers in the show this week mention that she only knew some of the younger dancers by name and sight and had not gotten to know them at all. Although in any working relationship, personal friendships may not develop, I would think that making an effort to get to know everyone at least a little could only be a good thing. Some of the interpersonal issues that young students deal with will follow them right into professional life. It's important to learn how to manage them. I think this may be one of the most interesting things that I've learned while watching this show.

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I seem to remember that in the program, Allison also commented that the variation she was doing was one that was not playing to her strengths. So, that alone would probably make it feel 'harder' to her.

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daisychain, you have hit upon the other thing in this week's show that shocked and saddened me a bit, the older dancer's claim that she knows most of the younger/newer dancers by name only. It isn't as if BW is a large corporation. Not everyone will be your best friend, but it was the way she said it, almost smugly or proudly, as if she doesn't want to get to know them because it just isn't worthwhile or something. Maybe I just took it the wrong way.

golconda, thank you for adding that Allison's bio states that she majored in dance at IU. So, other than the time off due to her parents' divorce, I am not seeing what is so special. Many dancers complete degrees at good programs like that of IU, then enter the pro scene around age 24 after graduating, and some dancers miss months or a year of training for various reasons, including injury. Yes, she is doing well in her career, but I am not understanding her angle of trying to make it seem as if it were such a long shot. A ballet career is a long shot for anyone.

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Victoria Leigh

Yes, but she was off for FIVE years, she said. And those years were 12-17, which are the most critical years in a dancers training. She must have something very special going for her to even get into IU's program.

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I actually am a Beckanne fan. I don't fault the repetition that she's doing amazing things at her age... it's a television show geared towards people who don't know anything about ballet as well as balletomanes. They have to pound certain facts into the viewer's head relentlessly. Key points: 1.) Beckanne is a young up and coming... a talented threat. Repeat her age and her accomplishments profusely. 2.) Allison is solely career motivated to make up for her lost time, show her being aggressive. 3.) Christiana is the principal on top, have her say demeaning things like "I don't even know their names" or overarch her eyebrows (lol). 4.) Re-establish that ballerinas aren't anorexic - show them eating all the time and talking about food all the time. That random restaurant conversation about how dancers aren't eating disordered was so hilariously out of place.


5.) Instill that this is a show that sets the precedent or establishes the layman's perception of ballet life - keep repeating phrases like, "Ballet West is one of the top companies in the country..."


While this docu-soapermentary is great fun, I can't say that I feel able to gather what any of these people are actually like (short of the ones I actually know in person) from watching the show. Ballet West always seemed to have a nice atmosphere to me, though all the talk about it being the best, the top, insert buzzword here... it's kind of odd, but understandable from a marketing perspective.

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Just a different view on the "getting to know people" issue. It's important to understand that while the dancers do take company class together, it is the corp who will spend most of their day together unless they of course are working on a contemporary ballet or running full runs. Understanding that might help those who wonder why the older dancers may not "know" the younger ones. If you're running, say Don Q, the corp will be in rehearsals together all day (and have the same break times and release times) but the Soloists and Principals may be in separate coaching sessions and not join the group until run throughs. Also, I know at DDs first company, the Principal dancer had a family and very vibrant life outside of the studio so she came to a few social events with the younger dancers but not many. It is truly a natural progression. I'd equate it to the same sort of situation we find in our "normal" workplace. If we're a mass worker we probably have alot of at work relationships. But if we get promoted to Supervisor, then we have less because of the nature of our new job. It's not that we aren't friendly, but we now have to direct people not just work together with them.


I'll also take this time to remind everyone that in all discussions on this board about dance related TV shows, we've taken the "armchair psychologist/critic" point of view. We discuss what we see and our perception of what we see. In this case, because of who we are and what we bring in knowledge about ballet and even some of the dancers themselves, we just need to realize that some come to the discussion with more intimate information than others. So, it's imporant to understand, yes, that it's a TV show that captured a small moment in time of these dancers and this company, but it is the moment in time that we get to see and that is what we are in the "armchair" for. It's sort of like watching a dancer on SYTCD in the midnight choreography sessions be mean to another dancer on screen when you know that they are the nicest dancer on the planet. Thing is, while you're in the armchair, they were actually mean to that other dancer and therefore worthy of armchair commentary on what happened on the show. With strong emphasis on show. I'm getting the sense that there is a belief by some that we don't know it's a show, we all do. Yet it's still fair to comment on what we see, that's why the thread is here. :)

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I really am sympathetic to Allison, or "Allison's character" on the show. The revelation that she was away from ballet for 5 years after her parents' divorce (I'm guessing due to money/residential/family rough spots that may not have otherwise occurred) and then got back into ballet via catch-up and college makes her ambition and single focus on her career (and her age) quite understandable.


At first, the show seemed to portray her as the cold career girl who dissed her devoted boyfriend-wannabe, but I can see where she's coming from. She's 28, she has been playing catch up for years, feels she has to make her career moves NOW, and is putting that as #1. There's a tendency to praise a man who puts his work and ambition first ("it's only natural...he can't be distracted by things like girls") and disapprove of a woman who does ("she's going to lose that perfectly nice guy/she's not getting any younger") but Allison seems wary of relationships right now considering her past romantic history (7-year relationship that sounds like it ended badly) and the breakup of her family; she seems to know that romance is not a sure thing. Not that ballet is either, but she seems confident in herself and how much she can expect from herself vs other people. Rex seems like a nice guy, but he is younger, he is more naive, and comes from a very different family situation. He and Ron both seem REALLY into the lovey-dovey family track, and I can see where Allison would be a little leary of the expectations that may come along with that: does "serious dating/commitment" mean fast track to marriage/kids when she really wants to work on her career and move up the ranks as a dancer? Honestly, it's nice to see the gender reversal of the usual "men just want to play the field/women just want commitment" trope. Life is complicated, even more so in the kind of uncertain career of a ballet company, and I'm glad some of that is coming through.

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Another comment on being cast in 4 roles for the same ballet: in dd's first year (apprentice) in a large European company, she's been cast in multiple roles (as many as 4) in the same ballet and same cast. None have been principal or solo roles but even 4 corps roles during the same night are grueling. In the heat of performance or rehearsals, I'm sure she's said that she's falling apart but make no mistake, she's thrilled that the ballet direction has that much confidence in her ability to execute the roles! Like momof3 said, we are watching a show and while there was some whining about the 4 roles, I doubt that the dancer would ask to be removed from any of them!


Like LaFilleSylphide, I really did think the emphasis on eating was overdone as well as the consistent marketing of the company.


Also to address the social structure in a company. In the clip of dinner with the more established dancers, for me the victim thing was just way too much. Not enjoying the evening? Then pick up the ubiquitous cell phone and say you have an emergency and have to go. Of course, that's not the script and it is a show. I think different companies have different social atmospheres but the 2 companies that dd has experience with have been kind and welcoming to young dancers (students, apprentices and corps). True, some of the principals probably don't know the names of the young, new dancers but one very well known principal offered to help my dd an any way when she was a student dancing with the company. This is just good manners and the hallmark of a secure, senior member of any company. It's a good talking point for younger students! As an apprentice, our dd has been invited to older dancer's homes, befriended by a retiring dancer and welcomed to share a dressing room with dancers who've been there for a number of years. Other dancers help her hone her craft in a congenial and helpful manner. She's earned those friendships by putting forth consistent, kind effort towards every member of the company. Dancers know that they may need a contact for the next contract. It behooves them to be genuinely friendly and friends with as many other dancers as possible. Without the contacts, finding out where jobs might be available becomes so much harder. Of course, that's hard to demonstrate in a show.

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I read Allison's story in the same way as kylara7. I'm in the same rough age cohort as Allison, and the simultaneous pressures she seems to be facing of focusing on career and focusing on "settling down" are very real for many of my peers -- and none of them is in a career that will end probably within the next decade, like Allison is!

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Maybe there is a misunderstanding about the length of the break Allison took? According to this article in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, she took a break for her freshman and sophomore years in high school.




I haven't re-watched the show to see what was actually said, but I remember thinking at the time (having previously read this article) that it might be mis-interpereted. If i remember correctly, she said something like "My parents got divorced when I was 12... something about difficult time... then I quit for awhile...", I don't know, something similar to that is what I remember.

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I'm happy to have the varying thoughts and perspectives, representing several different company situations, that this discussion has brought about. It is just a show, but I feel that I'm learning a lot about company life from watching and from the discussions here (probably more from here!)

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Thanks ceecee. That helped alot about her time off. I just kept thinking, "wait she didn't dance from 12-17 and then got into IU after high school?" That just didn't any possible sense at all, but is what it sounded like in the way it was presented/interpreted. Much better time line and information! :)

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Also wanted to add that I do think it is fair for Ballet West to refer to itself as a top regional company. Sure, I probably wouldn't place them in the top 5 US Companies. I would probably put them somewhere in the next group of 10 though. They do have some very good things to offer. Their budget and length of contract alone would put them up there. The company dancers have a very good AGMA contract. The second company also receives their own contracts. This company is also very ethical in how it uses its top students in performances & does not use them to "fluff up" the paid corps.


So, I couldn't speak about what a critic's perspective would be. But from a dancer's perspective, this company looks very good! And I guess that is kind of what this show is about.

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