SALT LAKE CITY — Little girls who dream of growing up to be ballerinas are about to get an eye-opening experience.
This week, Ballet West will take center stage on national television. BBC Worldwide has produced a six-part series titled “Breaking Pointe,” showing audiences everything that happens before the curtain goes up, including what goes on in the dancers’ personal lives.
As you see incredible leaps, you hear Ballet West’s artistic director Adam Sklute say, “These people are athletes.” The competitive, exhausting, body-pushing side of the ballet is what producers aimed to capture, including every aching move.
They auditioned 20 American dance companies and chose Salt Lake City’s. Sklute said he first heard about the project more than six months ago.
“They really wanted to set the record straight about ballet and ballet in America … what a dancer’s life is like, what being in a professional ballet company was like," he said.
Tom Mattingly is one of 10 dancers featured in the series.
“Most people don’t really understand what it means to be a ballet dancer," he said. "They don’t understand that it’s our full-time job. They don’t understand all the work that goes on behind-the-scenes to make a beautiful show.”
Cameras followed the company for six weeks through its rehearsals for this spring’s production of George Balanchine’s “Emeralds.” Cameras also captured what happens when the curtain comes down for 10 dancers.
Allison DeBona, a demi-soloist, said, “They followed us into our homes and into our personal lives, and at first, it’s kind of hard to let them in, but you become very familiar with people who you’re working with and the cameras, and sooner rather than later you realize, you really are being yourself.”
The production will show dancers stretching beyond what most bodies can do and then sinking into a tub of ice. They also talk about striving for the impossible — perfection. “There’s no end to it … you can always be better,” DeBona said.
The focus, the dedication, the hunt for the elusive image drives them. “We really want to show the world how it is to live the life of a ballet dancer and what we do to give everything we’ve got to become successful," said DeBona.
Ballet West dancers hope that through this production they will not only represent their company well, but all ballet dancers.
“I hope the show is able to reach out to people who never have seen or never would have seen ballet and give them kind of an understanding and appreciation for it,” Mattingly said.
“I hope," Sklute said, “this will show the world what a fantastic ballet company we are and what a great group of artists we are and an interesting group of artists we are. … But more than that, I’m really excited to see what this can do for the dance world.”
“Breaking Pointe" premieres Thursday, May 31, on the CW network. The initial production is six parts, but producers say if Ballet West dancers attract an audience, there could be more.