Chances are you've heard a lot about Starz's "Flesh and Bone" over the past year, from its casting choices (22 professional dancers make up the show's fictional ballet company) to Sarah Hay's Golden Globe-nominated performance as a talented yet troubled young dancer who runs away from an abusive home to join a New York City ballet company.

But have you seen it yet? For those who have been eagerly waiting, here's a piece of welcome news: the series was recently released on DVD and Blu-ray. Full disclosure: due to depictions of graphic sexuality and drug use, this show has a MA rating and is not for kids. But while the show's mature content and dark themes don't always present the ballet world in the best light, there's no doubt that it also features some pretty great dancing—as evidenced in the exclusive behind-the-scenes clip below. The video provides a glimpse of choreographer Ethan Stiefel working with the dancers on two ballets: Balanchine's "Rubies," and a new work that Stiefel created for the series.

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Nathan Sayers

The 2016 Golden Globes nominations were announced yesterday, and this year we have extra reason to pay attention. Dancer/actress (and our October/November cover star) Sarah Hay has been nominated for best actress in a TV movie or limited series, for her starring role in Starz's gritty drama "Flesh and Bone." The show, notable for casting real dancers to play the members of its fictional ballet company, also snagged a nomination for best TV movie or miniseries.

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This Sunday, ballet is back on TV with Starz's new drama "Flesh and Bone." Though the dark, fictionalized take on the dance world is more Hollywood than reality--and be advised, the content is not appropriate for young viewers--the cast features a range of ballet superstars, including Sarah Hay (Pointe's current cover girl), Irina Dvorovenko and Sascha Radetsky. For Pointe's bi-weekly newsletter, we spoke with Ethan Stiefel, the show's choreographer and dance consultant, about life on set.
Aside from class and rehearsal scenes, you made Dakini, the final ballet in the show. What was that experience like?
Moira Walley-Beckett, the executive producer, saw this ballet as the journey of a young lady finding her own feet and becoming self-empowered. Trying to make a storyline in just 13 minutes--when that would typically happen over 25, 30, 40 minutes for a one-act ballet--wasn't easy. Another challenge was to make the dancers look like a cohesive group that could have worked together for years, when actually they'd only been together for months.
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Sarah Hay photographed by Nathan Sayers for Pointe.

This is Pointe's October/November 2015 Cover Story. You can subscribe to the magazine here, or click here to purchase this issue.

On the Starz television series “Flesh and Bone," Sarah Hay plays Claire, a troubled young dancer getting her first big break in a New York City ballet company. With faraway eyes, she listens to music on a dreary train, escaping some unknown horror at home to attend an audition in the big city. Her hands move expertly through a variation as if in prayer. But when her phone rings during her first company class, she finds herself the focus of ridicule. Forced to perform the adagio by herself in front of the company, she sails through it with sharp technique and emotional intensity, making it clear to the show's characters that Claire is a dance genius.

Though “Flesh and Bone" is obviously fictional, Hay's natural acting ability comes across as finely crafted as her dancing. It's hard not to imagine that Hay had plenty of source material from her own life to draw on for the role. After a slow career start and battles with intense anxiety and body issues, Hay is now thriving at Dresden Semperoper Ballett as a second soloist. Her extreme vulnerability and emotional honesty, developed after years spent struggling at the bottom of companies, punctuate her highly technical dancing and make her performances on stage and screen so compelling. Now, Hay is coming into her own in front of an audience numbering into the millions, and her future is looking bright.


Hay as Marie in Aaron S. Watkin's "The Nutcracker." Photo by Ian Whalen, Courtesy Hay.

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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!"

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Photo by Angela Sterling via Vogue

 

We’re already anticipating Sascha Radetsky’s role in the new Starz TV series “Flesh and Bone,” which premieres on November 8, and now the former American Ballet Theatre soloist is giving us even more to look forward to. New York University’s Center for Ballet and the Arts has awarded Radetsky a Fall 2015 Fellowship for his new writing project: a work of fiction—either a novel or a set of short stories—set in the ballet world.

 

The Center’s seven other Fall Fellows are approaching ballet scholarship and artistic creation from various mediums including writing, musical composition, choreography and even puppetry. Among the choreographers is John Selya, former American Ballet Theatre dancer and star of Twyla Tharp’s Tony Award-winning Broadway show Movin’ Out. I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about these works-in-progress when the progress phase is over; meanwhile we’ll (not-so) patiently wait for Radetsky’s upcoming debuts onscreen and on the shelves!

If you are eagerly awaiting the November 8 premiere of Starz’s gritty ballet drama “Flesh and Bone,” you’re in luck. The network released its first trailer of the eight-hour limited series yesterday—and it looks pretty tantalizing. The show includes an impressive cast of professional dancers, including Dresden Semperoper Ballet soloist Sarah Hay, former American Ballet Theatre dancers Irina Dvorovenko and Sascha Radetsky, Raychel Diane Weiner (formerly of Ballet Arizona), as well as “House of Cards” star Ben Daniels as the tyrannical artistic director (get ready for a chair-smashing temper tantrum). According to multiple Starz press releases, the show’s main character Claire, played by Hay, has a “distinctly troubled past”—and the trailer offers a few clues as to what that past might entail. You may also catch a glimpse of Ethan Stiefel’s choreography—the former Royal New Zealand Ballet director and ABT principal created a 13-minute original ballet for the show.

 

Here's a sneak peek:

 

The new Starz drama "Flesh and Bone" has been described as the television version of Black Swan—so it's only fitting that the show's lead is a veteran of the film.

Starz announced today that Dresden Semperoper's Sarah Hay—a talented dancer who was a member of Black Swan's corps (we interviewed her about the film back in 2010)—has been cast as "Flesh and Bone"'s Claire, an aspiring ballerina with "a distinctly troubled past."

The show released other casting, including Sascha Radetsky and Irina Dvorovenko, a few months ago, but had a hard time finding its lead. Now that Hay is on board, shooting is scheduled to begin soon. We'll keep you posted!

Ethan Stiefel's sojourn abroad will soon come to an end: The former American Ballet Theatre principal has not renewed his artistic director contract with Royal New Zealand Ballet.

Many in the ballet world expressed surprise when Stiefel first joined the RNZB team in 2011. Moving halfway around the world to direct a company unfamiliar to most people outside of New Zealand seemed an unusual move for an American star. But during his tenure as artistic director, Stiefel has revitalized the company, freshening its repertoire with contemporary works and a new production of Giselle (co-staged with his friend Johan Kobborg). During the company's New York visit last month, its first since 1993, the RNZB dancers looked clean, crisp, invigorated—many of the qualities that characterized Stiefel's own dancing.

What's next for Stiefel? Well, choreographing the new Starz ballet drama "Flesh and Bone," for starters. He's also said that being away from family and friends has proved difficult, so odds seem good that he'll end up based in the U.S. once again.

We've been hearing the hype for months now: Starz network will air a new ballet drama "Flesh and Bone" sometime in 2015. While I'm estatic that dance is coming back to television after the fall of "Bunheads" and "Breaking Pointe," I must admit that it's hard to see some of our favorite dance stars leave their posts for the gig: Ethan Stiefel will not return next year as the championed artistic director of Royal New Zealand Ballet and beloved American Ballet Theatre soloist Sascha Radetsky will give his farewell performance on July 3. (I guess we will see Cooper Neilson and Charlie meet again.)

 

"Flesh and Bone" has officially started production. And we have some photos on set to prove it. Enjoy!

 

Writer and executive producer Moira Walley-Beckett with actor Ben Daniels

 

 

Irina Dvorovenko

 

Photos by Patrick Harbron, Courtesy of Starz Entertainment, LLC.

The much anticipated (at least in the ballet world) Starz drama "Flesh and Bone" finally has a premiere date: Sunday, November 8.

We've chronicled each development in the show's production as it came to light, and were sad to hear that the release had been postponed from earlier this year. Now, dance-on-TV fans only have to wait until November for the next big thing to air.

We're excited to see the lovely Sarah Hay, a dancer with Dresden’s Semperoper Ballett, in the lead role. And we can only hope that a show that bills itself as "the Black Swan of TV" gives credit to dancers where it's due and isn't too sensationalized.

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