I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I’m familiar with all of the ins and outs of the world of ballet, but as the father of a 6-year-old daughter who’s preparing to embark on her fourth dance recital (this year’s routine is set to the Beach Boys’ “Drive-In,” which pleases me to no end), rest assured that I’ve endured more than my fair share of the stuff, including seemingly-interminable screenings of various episodes of Dance Moms. As such, upon learning of the impending arrival of a new ballet-themed reality series from The CW, I immediately crossed my fingers and prayed that, if nothing else, it would at least be less painful to watch as a family than the misadventures of the completely mental Abby Lee Miller.
Unfortunately, while it would be fair to say that Breaking Pointe is a classier show than Dance Moms (paging the Faint Praise Police), the debut episode offers precious little in the way of actual dancing, which means that my kid’s almost certainly not going to have an interest in watching it regularly. On the other hand, that means that her father probably won’t have to sit through on a weekly basis, either, so let’s go ahead and put one in the “win” column for ol’ Pop, shall we?
Call it an additional bit of faint-praise damning, but Breaking Pointe does actually have a pedigree that, at least on paper, makes it seem as though it’s head and shoulders above any reality show ever to have appeared on The CW. Produced by BBC Worldwide Productions in conjunction with two alumni from behind the scenes of Dancing With The Stars (Izzie Pick Ashcroft and Jane Tranter), the show looks top-notch, and it’s clarified up front that the events witnessed within these proceedings are the result of Salt Lake City’s Ballet West allowing cameras inside their doors for the first time ever.
This seems like it should be extremely exciting, especially when it’s added that “each year thousands of dancers compete for only 40 contracts; this week they find out who stays and who goes,” but the whole thing sinks into melodrama almost immediately. Indeed, as I settled in to watch the premiere on TiVo, having not yet returned home from a brief outing when it started, my A.V. Club mentor Noel Murray filled my heart with dread by informing me, “I made it through about 10 minutes. The first staged, Hills-like coffee-shop conversation did me in. Good luck!” Having never watched any of Audrina Patridge’s antics, I checked with my wife to confirm Mr. Murray’s assurances, and she confirmed that his point of comparison was indeed spot on.
During the course of the first episode, we meet seven dancers—Beckanne (19 years old), brothers Ronald (19) and Rex (24), Allison (28), Ronnie (30), Christiana (32), and Katie (23)—and we are assured during the opening credits that these crazy kids do their dancing “for that one chance to have that one single moment onstage where everything comes together,” additionally clarifying that “we do it…to be perfect.” This certainly sums up Christiana, who’s the old pro of the bunch and has a tendency to look suspicious and act threatened whenever she sees any other dancer show any semblance of talent, which is why she and Beckanne do not get along. There is little question that Beckanne is a talented and beautiful young dancer, a fact not lost on the company’s artistic director, Adam Sklute, who promptly bumps her up to demi-soloist, a title which is apparently really, really impressive for a 19-year-old to achieve.
Unfortunately, Beckanne’s best buddy in the company, Katie, isn’t doing quite as well, resulting in her contract not being picked up. This upsets Beckanne, but it also seriously bums out Ronald, who, as it turns out, is Katie’s boyfriend. As Katie drives into the sunset with intentions of finding work elsewhere, Ronald vows he’s going to make their relationship work no matter what. This sort of romantic dedication seems to be inherent in Ronald’s genetic makeup, as his brother Rex has similarly strong feelings about the woman he loves. Sadly, however, that woman—the aforementioned Allison—is convinced that she can’t possibly have a romantic relationship at the same time that she’s pursuing her career in ballet, and she feels this so steadfastly that her reaction to Rex’s dropping of the L-bomb is to shake her head and sigh, “I will never, ever play into you when I think you’re talking crazy.”
These are the key storylines in the first episode of Breaking Pointe, which means that poor Ronnie gets the short end of the stick until next week. This, of course, is provided that viewers can even be bothered to come back. It’s not as though the series is awful, but the goings-on lean toward the unexciting far more often than not, with any possible momentum about the challenges involved in pulling a contract with Ballet West quickly neutered by cutaways to events like, say, Rex and Allison going on what may well be one of the least exciting shopping trips in the history of reality television.
It’s to the show’s credit that it shows the competitive nature of dance, making no effort to paint a shiny happy portrait of the interpersonal relationships within the group, but while a proper documentary on these events might’ve been scintillating, Breaking Pointe comes off as relatively pedestrian and, ultimately, pretty darned blah.