Why Dancers Will Never Get "Breaking Pointe"

"Breaking Pointe" closed out the season last night heavy on the drama, light on the dancing. Although the finale ostensibly focused on the simultaneous excitement and let down during the close of a run, most of the episode concentrated on Katie's goodbye and Rex and Alison's breakup. Even Christiana ended up in tears (seemingly due to something about the pressure of being too good?).

 

Encouragingly, the closing shots—Adam at an audition in New York, Alison literally knocking on Rex's door—set the scene for a second season. I'd love to see the show back next summer. Because despite the melodrama that obviously panders to non-dancers, "Breaking Pointe" can't help but drum up interest in ballet.

 

Of course, most dancers will never be happy with how they're portrayed by outside eyes. Pointe writer Kathleen McGuire put it really well in an email to me last week: "I don't think ballet dancers will ever fully embrace a pop culture image of ballet. They're like Goldie Locks—this is too soft, this is too hard. Ultimately, to accept any popular understanding of ballet would be to admit it's possible for someone outside to 'get it.' Part of what helps ballet dancers pursue such a challenging lifestyle is the feeling that it somehow makes them special. If just anyone can understand their world, it becomes less special."

 

There's something to be said for the mystique of the ballerina. But for the past week, my morning commute has brought me past a bullpen of paparrazzi outside the apartment where Katie Holmes is staying, and it's reminded me that people today want to know everything about their idols. They want to read Ashley Bouder's tweets during intermission between Odette and Odile. They want to learn which dancers date each other, and what it's like inside the artist's world. It will still be a special world—only the most talented will ever get invited. There just might be a fuller house on performance days.

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During one of Charlotte Nash's first few weeks with Houston Ballet II, she was thrown into a run-through of Balanchine's Theme and Variations. "I had never really understudied before and I didn't know what I was doing," she says. "I fell right away and was quickly replaced." For Nash, now a dancer with Festival Ballet Providence, the episode was a tough lesson. "I was mortified, but then I said to myself, 'Okay, I need to figure out how to learn things more quickly.'"

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Sponsored by BLOCH
Courtesy BLOCH

Today's ballet dancer needs a lot from a pointe shoe. "What I did 20 years ago is not what these dancers are doing now," says New York City Ballet shoe manager Linnette Roe. "They are expected to go harder, longer days. They are expected to go from sneakers, to pointe shoes, to character shoes, to barefoot and back to pointe shoes all in a day."

The team at BLOCH developed their line of Stretch Pointe shoes to address dancer's most common complaints about the fit and performance of their pointe shoes. "It's a scientific take on the pointe shoe," says Roe. Dancers are taking notice and Stretch Pointe shoes are now worn by stars like American Ballet Theatre principal Isabella Boylston, who stars in BLOCH's latest campaign for the shoes.

We dug into the details of Stretch Pointe's most game-changing features:

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The Joffrey Ballet's Amanda Assucena and Greig Matthews in Cathy Marston's Jane Eyre. Cheryl Mann, Courtesy Joffrey Ballet.

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

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Herman Cornejo in Don Quixote. Gene Schiavone, Courtesy ABT.

American Ballet Theatre's fall season at Lincoln Center's Koch Theater offers a chance to see the company in shorter works and mixed-repertoire programs. This year's October 16–27 run honors principal Herman Cornejo, who's celebrating his 20th anniversary with the company. Cornejo will be featured in a special celebratory program as well as a new work by Twyla Tharp (her 17th for the company), set to Johannes Brahms' String Quartet No. 2 in G Major, Op. 111. The October 26 program will include Cornejo in a pas de deux with his sister, former ABT dancer Erica Cornejo.

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