This week’s episode of Bunheads, “The Astronaut and the Ballerina,” showcased the direction and meaning that ballet gives dancers’ lives. The characters participated in a human choreography as they tested their relationships and searched for a purpose.
Michelle’s brother Scotty visits Paradise after leaving his fourth to-be bride at the altar, only to realize that his sister has found a new home and direction as a ballet teacher. While Scotty dreams of becoming an astronaut, Michelle proclaims her new sense of belonging: “The address has changed and my life has changed.” Mel also tests herself, exploring the world of roller derby—the polar opposite of ballet. Instead of controlled and graceful pirouettes, we see her express her aggression on roller skates in a push-and-pull race around the rink. When she falls, a look of ecstasy appears on her face. Dancers can’t help but be moved by that look—a reminder of how important it is to push oneself far enough to fall, to set out into outer space to find one’s way.
Incredible dance scenes from the substitute teacher Jordan ("So You Think You Can Dance" alum Kent Boyd) bookend the show. Jordan starts by pushing the dancers in a routine, dissatisfied with their performance, shouting that they are “killing Baryshnikov.” In the middle of the show, Boo challenges Jordan’s demanding tyranny, pushing him to be a more nurturing teacher. The show ends with Jordan performing the same routine by himself in the studio, now berating himself for not living up to Baryshnikov standards as he reaches for the stars in his own dancing.