[This is a review of the series premiere of Flesh and Bone. There will be SPOILERS.]
Ballet is an art and profession that very few can claim to be active aficionados in, and even fewer can understand its brilliance when preformed beautifully. Starz’ new limited-series Flesh and Bone attempts to deconstruct what many of us don’t understand by giving us a fantastical glimpse at what life might look like at the fictional American Ballet Company in New York City.
As with any great drama, the show is not simply about ballet, much like The Sopranos and Breaking Bad aren’t about how to be a successful criminal. Dramas like Flesh and Bone, as well as the other aforementioned series, take a behind the scenes look at what makes these men and women tick. Sure, there are lovely moments of choreography, but at its core, this series is navigating through the life of one Claire Robbins, who is portrayed by professional ballerina Sarah Hay from the Dresden Semperoper Ballet in Germany. That’s right, she’s the real deal.
For an actor whose only credit comes from Darren Aronofsky’s highly acclaimed film Black Swan, Hay gives an admirable performance. Like her character, Hay is a fish out of water in the world of acting, but it works when she’s playing Claire who, we can gather from the first few minutes of the episode, comes from a troubled past. Hearing her dad banging on her bedroom door with the padlock was a disturbing scene, which was surprisingly overshadowed by the episode’s conclusion when we see her brother (Bryan) pleasuring himself on his sister’s bed while talking to her on the phone. This is clearly one messed up family, yet Claire seems to pull all of that craziness into her performances, which makes her so captivating to watch.
Claire may be the lead, but a ballet wouldn’t work without its other key members. Chief among these participants in the volatile artistic director Paul Grayson (Ben Daniels). This guy is about as over-the-top as one can be. He is handsome, charismatic, bipolar and bisexual all at the same time. Paul is a caricature if there ever was one, but Daniels’ (House of Cards) performance reins him in just enough to make him watchable. Together, he and Claire have excellent on-screen chemistry, making for some delicious drama that is sure to pick up as the season progresses.
Another supporting character worthy of note is Daphne (Raychel Diane Weiner). Claire’s roommate Mia tells her that Daphne is one of the only honest people who says what she means. Daphne comes from money and can seemingly do whatever she wants as she searches for artistic glorification. Her trip with Claire to the lavish strip club Anastasia was an unexpected detour. Why would a young woman who can have whatever she wants work for a place like that? It’s possible that the club is another way for her to express herself outside of ballet.
Claire appeared hopelessly lost among the well dressed men and scantily clad women, but she also seemed intrigued – especially by Daphne’s performance on stage. It’s too early to tell what her sexual preferences are, but perhaps she’s still working that out herself. Only time will tell.
Flesh and Bone may not focus solely on ballet, but it’s still an artistic achievement in both performance and execution. It’s no surprise that Emmy award-winning Breaking Bad alum Moira Walley-Beckett is at the helm. She’s worked with the best and her experience shows in this first episode. Also, since it’s a limited run (8 episodes), we won’t have to wait long to see how this all wraps up. Whether you’re into ballet, or the performing arts in general is of little importance for you to enjoy this series. Claire and the talented supporting cast that surrounds her are reason enough to watch another seven hours of this new drama.
What did you think of this new series from Starz? Keep watching to see what happens next.
Flesh and Bone continues with ‘Canon Fodder’ next Sunday @8pm on Starz. Check out a behind the scenes look below: