Ballet Stars

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

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.

"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

Ballet master Matthew Powell gives the cast notes. Long hours on set helped the dancers develop a sense of camaraderie much like that in a real ballet company. "When you're working together that closely, you get to know each other fast," says Sascha Radetsky.

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Orlando Ballet dancers Kate-Lynn Robichaux and Arcadian Broad. Photo by Michael Cairns, courtesy Orlando Ballet.

It's been nearly a year and a half since Hurricane Maria devastated the island of Puerto Rico, but that doesn't mean the effects of the storm aren't still being widely felt. Thousands of Puerto Ricans relocated to Florida after the storm hit (the exact number is unknown), and many are still settled in Orlando.

This weekend, Orlando Ballet brings its Bailamos! program to audiences in Central Florida, and the company is offering 1,000 free tickets to Puerto Ricans in the area who were displaced by the hurricane. The ticket donation was organized in partnership with Orlando's Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration, who helped spread the word about how individuals and families could claim their tickets to the February 16 matinee. Some of the marketing for the performance was entirely in Spanish, and the program will also include an insert for Spanish-speaking audiences. "We're not just a professional ballet company; we are Orlando Ballet and we have a role to play in this community," says executive director Shane Jewell. "We have a social responsibility, I believe, as an arts organization, to do whatever we can to enrich the quality of life for everyone who's here."

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via joffreyballetschool.com

It's never too early to start thinking about your dream job. And summer intensives are an essential step down the road to achieving your dance dreams—whether you want to perform in music videos, ballet companies or Broadway shows.

With 19 programs across the U.S. (plus additional international programs) Joffrey Ballet School offers options for all types of dancers with all types of goals. Whatever you may be working toward this summer, there's a program that will help you get that much closer. We put together a guide to help you find the right one, based on your dream job:

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Ballet Stars
Complexions Contemporary Ballet. Photo by Steven Trumon Gray, courtesy Complexions.

Complexions Contemporary Ballet is celebrating their 25th anniversary this year, and we can hardly contain our excitement. Their longstanding commitment to diversity and daring, edgy repertoire has made them an exemplar of American contemporary ballet today. The company's season opener will be held at the Joyce Theater from February 19–March 3. Works include the world premiere of Complexions co-founder and choreographer Dwight Rhoden's WOKE; a compilation spanning 25 years of the company's repertory titled From Then to Now; the return of the David Bowie tribute Star Dust; and the New York City premiere of Bach 25. A gala evening will be held February 21, in which Complexions co-founder and co-artistic director Desmond Richardson will perform for the last time as a full-time company member.

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Evelyn Hart in "Swan Lake," via YouTube.

The individual touches that ballerinas incorporate into well-known classical variations are a source of endless fascination for us bunheads. (The abundant "variation compilation" videos on YouTube is proof of our obsession!) Odette's solo in Swan Lake's Act II is one that is particularly open to interpretation. The style is lyrical and introspective, giving dancers ample opportunity to make personal choices about choreography, musicality and character. The Canadian ballerina Evelyn Hart, a former principal with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, performs a fairly traditional version in this clip, yet with each nuance she defines her own Odette.

Evelyn Hart as Odette (1988) www.youtube.com

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Are you a total bunhead who loves to write? You might be the perfect fit for Pointe. We're seeking an editorial intern who's equally passionate about ballet and journalism.

Through March 1, we are accepting applications for a summer intern to assist our staff onsite in New York City from June to August. The internship includes an hourly stipend and requires a minimum two-day-a-week commitment. (We do not provide assistance securing housing.)

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First State Ballet Theatre's Rie Aoki in the studio at Steps on Broadway, NYC. Quinn Wharton.

First State Ballet Theatre company dancer Rie Aoki was documenting her fashion choices long before Instagram was around. "When I was 8, I used to dress up my little sister and take pictures of her outfits because I loved styling," she says. Aoki grew up in Japan, and started her own fashion blog in high school before coming to the U.S. to pursue a ballet career. After joining FSBT in 2013, Aoki's pictures of her outfits on Instagram (@rievictoriaaoki) took off. Now with a following of over 10 thousand, Aoki has also started a new style blog.

"I love warmer colors like reds, yellows, oranges and browns," Aoki says. "And I'm all about mixing patterns and textures—if you stick to the same tones, you can wear totally different patterns and it looks fashionable," she explains. "But I don't think there are really rules for fashion. It's 2019. You can wear what you like and try something funky or a little crazy."

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Wonder what's going on in ballet this week? We've pulled together some highlights.

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Ballet Training
Marcus Miller in conversation with Merritt Moore and Claudia Schreier. Courtesy National Museum of Mathematics.

Last Saturday night, I had a balletic epiphany. I wasn't in a mirrored studio taking class or even in a theater watching a performance. This luminous ray of understanding beamed into—wait for it—the basement of a math museum.

The National Museum of Mathematics (yes, that exists) hosted its fourth Quadrivium, a salon focusing on the intersections of music and math last Saturday in New York City. The evening's special guests were none other than ballerina Merritt Moore and choreographer Claudia Schreier.

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