Football and hockey players have deserved macho reputations, but for pure grit, try being a ballet dancer.
Mock if you must, but The CW's "Breaking Pointe," now in its second season on Mondays, proves how much athleticism and determination it takes.
The reality show follows Ballet West, a nationally celebrated company in Salt Lake City. As the announcer says, the dancers "train more hours than Olympic athletes and suffer shocking injuries."
Like most reality shows, this squanders time on the inflamed drama of relationships, gossip and sniping. It's so much better when it concentrates on the dancers working.
Artistic Director Adam Sklute tells Zap2it he hopes the show reveals "how complicated and challenging our lives are, and they have a greater respect for what dancers go through, the trials and tribulations of our lives. I like breaking down that wall.
"The mistake we make is we spend all of our lives trying to make everything look effortless," Sklute continues. "I hope it inspires people in any walk of life. Instead of people sitting around throwing drinks in each other's faces and pulling each other's hair, these are young people who are ensconced in a very, very difficult and demanding art form and profession that they are committed to. And hopefully that will inspire young people to realize it is about that commitment and that drive."
Allison DeBona is one of them. Last season, much was made of her relationship with one of the danseurs. In last week's premiere, the demi-soloist talked about being tired after a break. She's considering moving to Michigan to be with her boyfriend.
Though DeBona says viewers will have to tune in to see if she is definitely leaving Ballet West, she allows, "It was and is the hardest decision I have had to make in my life. When you start something at the age of 3, it is not just a career. It really is who I am."
This season, Ballet West is working on a production of "Cinderella," becoming only the second ballet company allowed to dance it. Sklute was at the Joffrey when it became the first.
Each year, some 1,000 hopefuls audition for the 40 slots in the company. The dancers become friends and date one another, but there is always the undercurrent of competition for roles.
To get to the level where dancers can keep up with the company takes years of practice.
Dancers take a daily 90-minute ballet class before an all-day rehearsal. And they work through pain that would sideline others.
Seeing their dedication and how they work may help correct misconceptions about dancers.
DeBona wants to debunk "the eating disorder misconception," she says. "I have the body that I have, and I work eight hours a day. I saw the comments that I am anorexic. This also gives us a platform to be a healthy athlete. I could not dance eight hours a day if I did not eat. We are all very, very smart athletes."
She also brings up "the gay thing," saying, "There are only two gays in our company. It is just about doing what you love to do."
Sklute says the biggest misconception about ballet, which the show can help set right, is that ballet is strictly an effete art.
"Our culture is so sports-motivated," he says. "It is not a bad thing -- selling the athleticism of what we do -- and people can understand the rules of the game. They don't understand ballet. And so getting them to understand the athleticism of ballet, more people will get drawn into it and appreciate the art form."
Photo/Video credit: CW