Young girl tries to make it as a ballet dancer. Does an audition. Does another one. Does that sound like drama series material? Before you answer that, be aware that television is the perfect medium to show you worlds you’ve never seen. Ultimately, there’s drama in everything, because true drama’s about people, not location or circumstance.
Coming of Age
Flesh and Bone, it’s called and indeed, it’s about ballet. But it’s not about ballet. Sure, there are dancing scenes. They’re beautiful – even if you’ve never witnessed a dying swan in your life – but that’s not what the story is. They’re supporting the bigger picture, dressing it up. Think of them as action sequences, but more graceful. And without bullets. This is a show about an artist, struggling to not only get to the top, but first and foremost to just survive. A creative coming-of-age tale, if you will. This is about trauma. Confliction. Danger. Mentality. Relapse. And one particular creative expression that may or may not save the lead character.
The Real Thing
That leading lady is Sarah Hay. You’d better cast someone who’s able to believably pull off ballet moves for the role of ballet dancer. You don’t want to edit scenes together, with a lot of cuts, to create the illusion that she’s actually a pretty good dancer; you want the real thing – or something close to it. Hay is the real thing – being a professional ballet dancer turned actress, and a delight to watch. She’s like a young Evangeline Lilly. Reminds me a little of Julianne Moore and Shailene Woodley, too. Fact is, Hay is such a fresh face, she doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page yet. Can someone please work on that?
I can only assume Starz has taken a bit of a risk, with Flesh and Bone. Just because it’s far removed from what we normally get to see. A show about some kind of hostage situation would’ve probably been a safer bet. But judging by the pilot – not called ‘Pilot’ – they seem to have gone all in. Committed themselves to what can only be described as a true piece of drama. Not action, thriller, comedy, dramedy, medical or legal show. ‘Bulling Through’ is all about doing the world of ballet – and the emotional struggles of a young woman – justice.
Whether it’s because Hay doesn’t have much acting experience or not, she doesn’t have many lines in the show – yet. Her dancing and looks tell most of what’s she’s going through – and that’s a lot. She’s got the eyes to silence a room full of people. However, we don’t get to know a whole lot about her. Run away from home, but why? What’s she escaping from? It would’ve been nice to get a bit more information about her family and boyfriend, but Flesh and Bone keeps its cards close to the chest. That could either be good news or bad news. Good, because there might be a big mystery brewing behind the scenes. Bad, because the mystery might not be that big at all and they’re trying to unravel it as slowly as they can, before we figure out it doesn’t justify the big buildup.
In the pilot, Claire Robbins (Hay) flees to New York, goes into the audition process of a prestigious ballet class, makes a friend (well, a roommate), charms the director with her dancing, gets the part in a new play, stumbles across a few naked breasts (and a tampon) and that’s where we are now. This could’ve easily been the storyline for the whole season, but it’s just the first episode. That is promising, because the show knows exactly where it wants to go, wastes no time in putting Claire precisely where she needs to be so the show can really start. ‘Bulling Through’ is basically a prologue. Now it’s time for serious business.