CHICAGO – The issue of gender identity, especially for those who are born with a vagueness as to what to call themselves between/beyond boy and girl, has come front and center in the U.S., both with the legalization of gay marriage and the callous repudiation of identity by trying to pass laws dismissing it (the North Carolina “bathroom” laws). The performance companies of The Living Canvas and Nothing Without a Company is currently staging “[Trans]formation,” which presents gender identity art by six performers, who perform most of the play in the nude.
TV Review: Interesting Behind-the-Scenes Drama of Ballet Company in ‘Breaking Pointe’
CHICAGO – It’s like “Black Swan” meets “The Real World”! While that pitch line may seem a bit silly, it does get to the heart of The CW’s new reality series, “Breaking Pointe,” a modest offering that seems unlikely to register at all in the ratings (as few CW shows do lately) but should work for its target audience.
TV Rating: 3.5/5.0
The producers of “Breaking Pointe” were allowed behind-the-scenes access to the young dancers of Ballet West in Salt Lake City, UT. Luckily for them, they found a number of interesting dynamics like the brothers who happen to be from a family of dancers, the couple concerned that only one may get a contract and they might therefore end up in different cities, the newcomer who may take down the seasoned veteran as the leader of the troupe, and the artistic director who knows that the best dancer is one who knows she’s expendable.
Photo credit: The CW
If it all sounds a bit melodramatic, don’t worry too much. One of the most notable things about “Breaking Pointe” is the producers’ lack of forced drama. I was worried about quick cuts that never showed us actual dancing, MTV-style editing and music cues, scripted interviews — “Breaking Pointe” has a surprisingly natural feel and rarely falls into those traps. The dancers don’t feel nearly as scripted as they might in a reality show on another network (I’m looking at you E!) and the production has a palpable respect for the skills and personal lives of these people. They are undeniable athletes, people who train like Olympians for that beautiful dance move in the spotlight. And the broken hearts, sore bodies, and wounded egos are just part of the job.
Having said that, some of “Breaking Pointe” is a bit dull. Some of the personalities are more dynamic than others and I found myself not caring when, for example, one dancer was helping another pick out outfits. I know it’s against the CW bylaws but there’s a stronger version of “Breaking Pointe” that is a bit more focused and only half an hour a week instead of an hour that doesn’t drag out the episodes with a bit too much of the same over an hour.
Despite the sometimes repetitive nature of the premiere, I found “Breaking Pointe” much more impressive and interesting than I was expecting. The key difference between it and most shows like it is the lack of artifice. We don’t feel like people are playing up for the camera like so often happens on shows like this one. We want to be a fly on the wall in a world in which we would never otherwise happen. That’s the main draw of a show like “Breaking Pointe,” a surprisingly engaging reality show drama about people who can do something that you probably cannot. Unlike so many reality stars (I’m looking at you Kardashians), these people actually have skills and how they hone and develop them makes for good TV.