Summer means different things to different people: time to chill at the pool, or enjoy some cocktails and BBQ with friends and family. And for a lot of TV lovers, it’s the season for fabulous dance competition shows. We’ve got standards like America’s Got Talent and So You Think You Can Dance, but the CW has something new and fresh to add to your summer TV dance card. You may think ballet is for sweet young girls in tutus or gentrified adults with season subscriptions to their nearest ballet company, but… think again. Breaking Pointe is CW’s new reality drama highlighting the competitive, raw, emotionally and physically demanding world of the Salt Lake City Ballet Company, Ballet West.
Premiering Thursday, May 31, at 8/7c, Breaking Pointe “obliterates the notion that ballet is a dated art form and shatters preconceived stereotypes about the men and women who give their lives to the world of ballet. Beneath their perfect exteriors, these dancers have the toughness of linebackers, punishing their bodies to achieve perfection and dancing through injuries and pain,” explains CW’s website.
On a recent set visit, I was able to meet artistic director Adam Sklute, soloist Ronnie Underwood, and demi-soloist Beckanne Sisk for a little taste of their daily routine. Did I mention they made us dress in comfortable clothes and leap through the air? I’ll have more on that later.
When Snakkle asked Sklute if we would be privy not only to a day in the life of his dancers but to their personal breaking points as well, he coyly answered, “Oh, no. We’re not going to. We don’t want to give anything away. Let’s just say it’s hard.” But when pushed for specifics, Sklute added, “We don’t need to create phony drama. There’s enough drama in our lives. Injuries, dealing with just your physicality… you know you can go to work feeling sick, right? You can go sit at a computer or answer the phone not feeling well or with a… cast on your leg. You can’t do that in ballet. You can have a bad day and maybe not communicate well with other people, but you can’t have a bad day in ballet and not work with other people. You just can’t. So it’s the whole life. It just is what it is.”
These dancers give up so much to be a part of the company—time with friends and family, and sometimes even their health. But to Sisk and Underwood, their art is worth the sacrifice. Underwood explained, “It’s an exciting business to be in. It’s my favorite job I’ve ever had. I mean, it changes every single day. You wake up feeling different every day as you guys go to work; our bodies are our tools, and every day something is tweaked or different from the day before, so it really stays interesting.” Adding to that, Sisk wants the audience to know that she may be a dancer, but it’s not her whole identity. “I feel like people don’t understand that we are real people too. And we have other lives. We do things. We’re not just strictly about ballet. We have friends. We’re normal.”
It’s not just the physical demands and sacrifices that can get to the dancers on Breaking Pointe; there is clearly an immense emotional investment in their work as well. At the end of the day, Underwood loves what he does and accepts the emotions freely, no matter the toll. “I mean, we’ve all been there where you finish a performance and you’re just weeping. You’re weeping because your tired body and soul have been so connected to what you’re doing that it’s such an emotional thing.”
Speaking of weeping, let’s go back to me—in a pair of leggings—trying to keep up with Sklute’s introductory ballet lesson for journalists on the set visit. I’m a good sport. Sure, I can do first position. Why not even a little pas de bourrée? (Now I’m getting cocky). But as I took on a jeté (a.k.a. a big ol’ leap), I thought, “Not bad for a 36-year-old”—then tried with all my might not to crumple to the floor. Yep. Time to leave this art form in the hands of these very beautiful, soulful, insanely talented professionals.
Check out the premiere of Breaking Pointe on Thursday, May 31, at 8/7c, only on CW.