Producers spent 15 weeks auditioning professional dancers to make up the show's American Ballet Company. Sarah Hay stars as Claire, a talented new dancer with a troubled past. Photo by Myles Aronowitz, Courtesy Starz.

Ballet's Dark Side: On the Set of the New TV Drama "Flesh and Bone"

This story originally appeared in the October/November 2015 issue of Pointe.

"Cut!" Ethan Stiefel's voice booms from behind a monitor. The cast of “Flesh and Bone," the Starz network's new television series set in a New York City ballet company, is filming the final episode's climactic performance scene. Onstage, the dancers regroup while Stiefel, the show's choreographer and dance consultant, huddles with the director and film crew before heading onstage to give notes. Five minutes turn to 20 as the cast stands by, dropping down into push-ups or stretches (one even donning a parka) to keep their bodies warm while the crew fiddles with lighting and camera angles. Makeup artists emerge to powder noses. After what feels like an eternity, the cameras finally roll and everyone once again bursts into dance.

For the 22 professional dancers that make up the bulk of the show's cast, this is the grueling reality of film production, and a major adjustment from live theater. “The days are very long," says former American Ballet Theatre principal Irina Dvorovenko, who plays Kiira. “You have to do many, many takes from this angle and that angle." But Dvorovenko relished the experience, and plans to pursue more acting opportunities. “Time flies on set. I loved every minute of it!"


Like many depictions of ballet on film, “Flesh and Bone" contains some familiar clichés: the naïve ingénue on the brink of stardom, the tyrannical director, dancers seething with jealousy. But unlike an hour-and-a-half movie, Starz's eight-part series, which premieres November 8 and contains mature content, allows more time to dig deeper into the motivations of each character. “There is a lot of dancing in 'Flesh and Bone,' and Ethan created an awesome, cinematic ballet that should translate well to the screen," says former ABT soloist Sascha Radetsky, who plays Ross. “But the show is less about the dance world and more about a set of fascinatingly drawn fictional characters."

Photos by Myles Aronowitz, Courtesy Starz

Hay goes over the script with director Stefan Schwartz.

Latest Posts


Getty Images

The History of Pointe Shoes: The Landmark Moments That Made Ballet's Signature Shoe What It Is Today

Pointe shoes, with their ability to elevate a dancer both literally and metaphorically to a superhuman realm, are the ultimate symbol of a ballerina's ethereality and hard work. For students, receiving a first pair of pointe shoes is a rite of passage. The shoes carry an almost mystical allure: They're an endless source of lore and ritual, with tips, tricks and stories passed down over generations.

The history of pointe shoes reveals how a delicately darned slipper introduced in the 1820s has transformed into a technical tool that offers dancers the utmost freedom onstage today.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Getty Images

How Coming Back to Ballet After Years Away Has Saved Me During the Pandemic Shutdown

I was 4 years old when I took my first ballet lesson. My mom had dressed me in a pink leotard with matching tights, skirt and slippers. She drove me on a Saturday morning to a ballet academy in downtown Caguas, the town in Puerto Rico where I grew up. I don't remember much from the first lesson, but I do recall the reverence. My teacher Mónica asked the class if someone wanted to volunteer to lead. She was surprised I—the new girl—was the one to raise my hand.

I made up most of the steps, mimicking the ballerinas I had seen on TV and videos. At one point, Mónica stepped in and asked me to lead the class in a bow. I followed her directions and curtseyed in front of the mirror with one leg behind me and a gentle nod. I looked up to find myself in awe of what I had just done.

This was the same feeling I had when, after years away from dance, I finished my first YouTube ballet class at home in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
La'Toya Princess Jackson, Courtesy MoBBallet

Join Memoirs of Blacks in Ballet for Its 2020 Virtual Symposium

Memoirs of Blacks in Ballet, founded in 2015 by writer and activist Theresa Ruth Howard to preserve and promote the stories of Black ballet dancers, is offering three weekends of interactive education and conversation this month through its 2020 Virtual Symposium. The conference, titled "Education, Communication, Restoration," encourages participants to engage in candid discussions concerning racial inequality and social justice in ballet. While it is a space that centers on Blackness, all are welcome. Held August 14, 15, 21, 22 and 28, MoBBallet's second annual symposium will allow dancers to receive mentorship and openly speak about their personal experiences in a safe and empowering environment.

The first event, For Us By Us (FUBU) Town Hall, is a free community discussion on August 14 from 3:30–4:30 pm EDT via Zoom, followed by a forum for ballet leadership. The town hall format encourages active engagement (participants can raise their hands and respond in real time), but the registration invoice also contains a form for submitting questions in advance. The following discussions, forums and presentations include topics like company life as a Black dancer, developing personal activism, issues of equity and colorism in ballet companies, and more. Tickets range from free to $12 for each 60- to 80-minute event.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks