Sunday, July 01, 2012

The unreal reality

Breaking Pointe is a mini-series on the CW Network. It is advertised as an inside look at a ballet company, Ballet West, which works out of Salt Lake City, Utah. I think most ballet aficionados who tune in to the show are looking for more ballet and less of the personal life of the dancers, but it was quickly established what the filmmakers have decided to show, and that’s soap opera.

Such as:

Rex loves Allison, but she doesn’t love him because she still carries a torch for Jonathan (whom we don’t see). She pushes Rex away as he tries to get closer.

Ronald (Rex’s brother, also with Ballet West) loves Katie, but Katie did not get a contract renewal, so she had to go to Idaho to find another job, leaving both young lovers stricken. (Katie does have to dance for the rest of the season with Ballet West, but after the season she'll be gone.)

Ronnie is a superstud lead dancer who is very into himself. As young ballerina Beckanne says just before the opening night performance, “You know Ronnie is being serious when he isn’t flirting with all the girls.” Beckanne is wise beyond her 19 years, and even at her young age has pegged Ronnie as potential trouble.

I don’t know what the gestation of the show has been, how long it’s been in the editing room, from filming to broadcast, but decisions had to be made as to what to show in six one-hour programs. They’ve gone for the romance, personal breakdowns and diva behavior.

Allison DeBona acts the diva. She is upset about the tempo the conductor has set for the music for her solo.  She goes on and on about it, and the troupe members enable her negativity by their passivity. Allison is upset because Rex is pushing her to commit (a role reversal there), and her parents don't think he's right for her. When her parents visit they try to enable her but also guide her relationship decisions. She tells them to leave it alone, to quit promoting her ex, Jonathan, to her, because he’s gone. Wow, she even had me crying. (Read heavy sarcasm into that statement.) In looking  for information online about the show I see that Allison has been taking a lot of heat from viewers over her tempermental behavior, and inflicting mental cruelty on a boy who loves her.

Allison milks the drama.

My personal feeling is that Rex should just drop Allison like a bad habit. Honest, you have to see this guy. He’s a young Adonis. As I told Sally during one of his hopeless expressions of love for Allison (and her rebuff, of course), this guy could have any girl anywhere, any time. Why any man would stick around and take the heartache of unrequited love is beyond me, anyway, but especially when he looks like a movie star.

The show couldn’t resist it when Rex and Ronald traveled home to San Francisco over a weekend to be with their family, sisters and parents, every one of them impossibly beautiful. Life just ain’t fair. (I should’ve been born with Rex’s looks and body, with the additional ability to play guitar like Eric Clapton. That seems fair to me.)

The show isn’t all soap opera. There are lighter moments when the dancers go drinking at one of the few actual nightclubs in Salt Lake City (camera shots of the city avoid the LDS Temple, and no religious references are made). There is time spent in the rehearsal hall, with the rehearsing dancers diligently scrutinized by the boss, Adam Sklute. There’s also a truly annoying little Russian woman who is constantly kibitzing and correcting the dancers. She yells out “Stopstopstopstopstop!” over and over, and it begins sounding like a mantra. After a time I’m sure the dancers want  to stopstopstopstopstop her and throw her out the window.

As with other reality shows, there’s something the filmmakers would like us to forget. There are cameras filming, there are soundmen with boom mikes out of camera range. Filming the rehearsals, the concerts and being with the dancers when they are expressing intimate thoughts, or arguing over matters of romance, makes the show unreal, not real. It’s my contention that reality goes out when cameras come in. Yes, these are real people, real dancers, members of a ballet troupe, young people who have love affairs and dalliances along the way. And yet they’re doing it in front of cameras. How real is that?

Think about it. If cameras set up in your house, at your place of business, in front of a park bench where you are whispering words of love to your significant other, would you be able to act natural? Hell, no. I know if they were filming me I’d be putting on my best Barrymore, with flourishes and gestures. Reality is a misnomer for this type of program and another name should have been used to define it, because under the conditions reality is unachievable. (Maybe they should call it "fakeality television.")

Despite the negatives, there's at least one thing I like about the show. It's Beckanne, a 19-year-old with a lot of talent, a fresh face and a positive attitude. She is careful to stick to dancing and avoid drama.

I know I'm not part of the demographic the producers and CW Network are aiming at, the 18 to 34-year-old female viewers the program skews to. Because of my outsider status I tend to apply my cynicism to the personal and the emphasis on relationships. I'm sure the audience the show plays to is lapping up the very things I'm most critical of.

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