Photo: The CW

How Fake Is Breaking Pointe?

Just fake enough.

Ballet is not natural. It's like thoroughbred racing, kind of -- exciting, beautiful, dangerous, and absolutely not what these bodies were designed to do -- which is why both ballet and horse-racing have high levels of drama baked right into them. On top of that, both worlds attract colorful characters, and while I can't speak to how successful a reality show set at Aqueduct (or wherever) might be, a non-fiction ballet show is going to bring the plot, and the plotting, simply by existing. Between the battles for key positions, the workplace-romance agita, the fight to stay thin and/or strong, and the often grotesque injuries, a show like Breaking Pointe doesn't need any ginning up. The producers can just kick back and watch the fireworks from a Tuscan villa.

I didn't watch last season, but from what I can see in the second-season premiere, that's just what the Breaking Pointe production team did. Identify a company, pick a production for the season, wind up the cameras and watch everyone go -- it feels genuine. The medical professionals' reaction to Ronnie's infected foot seemed a little off, like they were playing to the cameras about the possibility of an amputation, and I'd rather they talked to him about next steps…but unlike most reality-show injuries, this one is real, and the wound site isn't repulsive, but it's legit infected. The realest part of Ronnie's story, though, is how hard it is for him to stay off his feet, stay still, not try to get back into his workout routines and practicing.

Beckanne's story is also really believable. She's probably the youngest hopeful in line to dance Cinderella, and we hear a lot about the confidence she's gained since last season after getting a few key roles and starting to feel like she presented real competition for the more established Allison and Christiana. It's the oldest and most reliable story in fictional tales about ballet (and the theater, and opera, and and and), and for a reason, so if they didn't have a conflict here, Breaking Pointe would have to create it. It doesn't feel created, though; Beckanne can come off snotty, but she's young and driven, and now that the others see she can cut it, they're a bit more focused on acing her out of the starring roles. It's the price of getting taken seriously; there's only so much lunch to go around. …Well, bad simile given the milieu, but you know what I mean.

Even Zach doesn't feel fake. Zach announces right up front, "I love petty drama," which I don't doubt is true, but the drama he tries to stir up or insert himself into is also totally real to a guy that age, who's gotten engaged to his boyf of three months and who feels like he's losing his best friend to a girl. I doubt the producers had to so much as breathe on him to get him to freak the fuck out about Beckanne passing a drunk snippy comment to Chase at the pre-season party. In ten years -- hell, in two years -- he won't act this particular fool; right now, I'm watching him and sighing, "Oh, college. I don't miss you one little bit."

So far, Breaking Pointe feels like a slightly shined-up documentary, down to the resolute granite thinness of the veteran dancers and the creepily jointless stretching going on the background of every shot. I'm weirdly interested in ballet, going back to the point around the fifth grade when my teacher finally had to real-talk to my mom about the boobs and the utter lack of coordination, and I hope the show gets into some of the inside-baseball stuff about casting -- because I think I can trust how it portrays said stuff.

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