The Born-Again Balletomane's Blog

Just another site about the love of ballet

This is what I’m talking about… March 15, 2017

Filed under: ballet class,reality tv — theworstat @ 5:49 am
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“Joffrey Elite”

I mentioned this monstrosity in a previous post.  Here you see the “reality show” formula at its worst: fake shaming, fake competition, fake drama, all ending in a fake cliff-hanger.

Add to that student dancers who are not ready for any kind of limelight.  All the kids appear deficient in basic classical technique, so how is it helping them to spend their days in 6th position, executing a free-for-all edition of “modern dance,” (actually as I said earlier, it bears more resemblance to high-school drill team garbage), if they are aiming to be classical dancers?  And the boys can’t partner, or at least what they’re being asked to do is way beyond what they can manage.

There’s always yet another stupid team competition (are we dancers or are we cheerleaders?); we have that lousy choreography where people march around in lockstep for a bit and then throw themselves by their stomachs (and why does it look exactly the same as the previous lousy choreography they did, when the subject is ostensibly so different?).  And of course because there’s magically a new competition every two weeks or so, they have to be in an eternal rush to have new dances and costumes for each competition, just like Dance Moms!   (Note: most real ballets take at least a month to choreograph and prepare, and are rehearsed to the point of exhaustion.)

Meantime back in the real world, I have to point out that this is nothing like

School of American Ballet documentary

This documentary simply shows life at an elite ballet school with no detectable added drama.  It assumes ballet life is interesting enough on its own.  It doesn’t reek of a bunch of writers sitting around a table throwing out ideas like, “let’s have Arielle just dying for love of Jason, but then she finds out he really wants Josh, and meantime they’re all worried about their next big competition and whether Mr. Ballet Master is going to let them dance anymore if they don’t get a good score from the judges…”

To sum it up, nothing depicted in “Joffrey Elite” prepares the kids for life in a ballet company, so what’s the point?

The point of ballet school is clear when you watch the SAB documentary.  This is the way ballet backstories should be portrayed on TV: just tell the truth.   It’s quite dramatic enough.

P.S. the Joffrey Ballet must cringe at the “Joffrey Elite” series and the inevitable confusion it will cause.  How do I know?  Look at the website of the Joffrey Academy (the actual school of the Joffrey Ballet, as opposed to the Joffrey Ballet School).  See anything there that tells you they may be trying to distance themselves from all this?  Yes.


Be Careful What You Wish For March 4, 2017

During my YouTube haunt tonight, I found a new video by Joy Womack in which she blamed her on-tour loneliness on the fact that she didn’t come up through the corps and didn’t “bond” with anyone; also, she reiterated the “jealousy” excuse when talking about how her colleagues freak out whenever she pulls out a video camera.

At this point I don’t know what to say except that it’s getting old.  It’s obvious that she needs to leave Russia, but it’s not so clear as to whether she’ll be happier in another company elsewhere.  A lot of her problem is herself; until she realizes that, it’s going to be same-old, same-old.

ASIDE: the music she uses in her non-performance videos is hideous.  I keep fast-forwarding through it.  Where does she find this stuff?  It’s either repetitious to the point of where you want to scream…well, it’s always that way…or there’s some girl singing in a voice that sounds like she just sucked on helium.  Sometimes it’s just plain weird (once she had background music where some guy was reciting poetry or a speech or something).  Never does it have anything to do with what’s going on on-screen.

Often, this screechy background music is just plain TOO LOUD.

Anyway, on to my next rant…a video series called The Joffrey Elite.

This is a reality series and follows that sick, sad, sorry old formula to the last drop of BS.  The story is that a group of students are selected by the Joffrey Ballet School (NOT affiliated with the Joffrey Ballet!!) to become “the elite,” which is a group that performs at those silly team competitions that are springing up around the country.  You know, like Dance Moms, only with pointe shoes.

Along the way they have the usual staged backstage dramas (“you’re on probation!”) and the usual happy endings (“we got first place in our first competition!”), coupled with the requisite silly challenges (“we didn’t score 100%!”).  At one point I felt like shouting, “you didn’t score 100% because your students aren’t very good!”  Because they aren’t.  They are students: young, unfinished dancers ostensibly training for the lofty rigors of classical ballet.

If that’s actually who these kids are, this series will cost them eventually in real-world terms.  Let’s put it this way: why are serious pre-professional ballet students wasting their time on high school drill-team choreography?  Are they aspiring to be cheerleaders?  Meantime they are losing serious classroom and rehearsal time in the most difficult of all the disciplines of western dance.

Aside from that, the series is so trite and predictable and just plain stupid that it made me wonder why the Joffrey Ballet School got involved in this in the first place.  This particular school has a reputation that outstrips that of the Joffrey Academy (the school that is affiliated with the Joffrey Ballet), which is a young institution that just underwent a major management shakeup and as a result of all this, hasn’t gotten very far in its first 6 or 7 years.  The Joffrey Ballet School, in contrast, has a solid history that goes back to 1953 and has earned a reputation for producing fine dancers.  Kids fight to get into that school.

So why risk it?  What’s the end game here?  Are they wishing for fame and fortune by going down the reality-tv route?

This is not, after all, the Joffrey School’s first foray into the questionable world of reality shows.  They had a presence in the deplorable Dance Moms series as well.  At this point, I guess I can assume it’s a pattern.  But as I asked, why?  Is it doing them any good?

Is it doing ballet any good?

I can only hope that this doesn’t spread to other schools.  I know one company has already succumbed (Ballet West), but I’d hate to see it spread to other companies as well.  The one thing that may stop it is the dancers themselves.  One hopes that if Joy Womack is getting in trouble with her colleagues for filming everything they do while filming herself (a new form of collateral damage), maybe dancers across the U.S. will stand up with their unions and stop the reality-show trend in its tracks.  After all, it could end up making ballet look like one big, fake, stupid drama, kind of like professional wrestling.

One may argue that it exposes a whole new audience to ballet. But when you consider a typical reality-show audience…well, maybe ballet is better off without it.