Review by Lauryn Angel
The behind-the-scenes drama of ballet is not new territory. It has been covered in Black Swan and Fame, most notably, and the new Starz drama Flesh and Bone treads much of the same territory, to the point of being cliché. We have the young ingénue, Claire Robbins (Sarah Hay), who runs away from an abusive home to audition for a prestigious New York City ballet company. Of course, she is accepted after only one audition, and her dancing dazzles everyone. Then, we have the resident Prima, Kiira (Irina Dvorovenko), who has been with the company for ten years, but whose star is fading fast due to injury. There’s Paul (Ben Daniels), the company’s artistic director who is as gifted in hurling abuse as he is with producing ballet.
The show is teeming with drama. Claire escapes an abusive home, but now shares a small apartment with a passive-aggressive fellow dancer, Mia (Emily Tyra), and the other dancers in the company are filled with envy and spite about Claire’s rise in the company as well as admiration of her dancing. There aren’t many likeable characters in the company, which is mostly due to the fact that most of them aren’t developed beyond background members of the company. And those characters that are developed – Mia, Kiira, the company’s financial director Jessica (Tina Benko) – are sympathetic one moment, but can lose our sympathy in the very next scene. Perhaps the most developed character after Clare is Daphne (Raychel Diane Weiner), a talented corps dancer with a secret life as an exotic dancer, who mentors Claire on her journey of self-discovery.
The best part of the show, as you might imagine, are the performances, both in the rehearsal space and on the stage. Even the opening credits are stunning – a ballet dancer performing with red chalk, creating stunning visuals, intercut with scenes that make more and more sense as the story unfolds each episode, set to Karen O’s moody, ethereal cover of Animotion’s “Obsession.”
One the one hand, it’s a shame that Starz decided to limit the show to eight episodes instead of developing the characters over multiple seasons. At the same time, though, this will hopefully allow the show to wrap up in a satisfying way for viewers.