So you think you can dance? Well, it takes more than good rhythm, smooth moves and rubber hips. Ballerinas need steady nerves, thick hides and steely determination. And because no one knows that better than the real thing, former Breaking Bad producer Moira Walley-Beckett cast actual dancers, not actors, in her gritty new behind-the-ballet drama Flesh and Bone.
Sarah Hay, from the Dresden Semperoper Ballet in Germany, plays Claire, a troubled young woman whose quick rise through Manhattan’s fictitious American Ballet Company affects everyone from its aging star (played by former American Ballet Theater principal Irina Dvorovenko) to its arrogant leading man (ABT’s Sascha Radetsky). “It made my job a lot easier,” the show’s choreographer, Ethan Stiefel (another ABT alum), says of the casting. “I mean, look at Sascha. In the climatic dances, he looks like a superhero!” We talk to some of the dancers about their characters and hitting all the right moves…on a stripper pole?
She Plays Claire, the ingenue
On Point Hay almost didn’t try out—then the Quentin Tarantino fan learned his Pulp Fiction collaborator Lawrence Bender was a producer. “I was scared at first because dance isn’t represented well on TV,” she says. “It always has to be pretty—or a reality competition.”
He Plays Ross, the bad boy
On Point Radetsky has acted before, most notably as sweet-hearted love interest Charlie in the 2000 film Center Stage. Ross is very different. “He has to partner with all the ladies, so he also tries to have his way with them from time to time,” Radetsky says. “Those are his focuses: ballet and women.”
Raychel Diane Weiner
She Plays Daphne, the rebel
On Point Claire’s new bestie moonlights…as a stripper—which Weiner, a former dancer with Ballet Arizona, did not know how to do at first. “Pole dancing is hard!” she admits. “It requires so much upper body strength. I definitely picked up enough to make it look legitimate, but I have mad respect for every person who actually does it for a living.”
He Plays Tyrell, the frenemy
On Point Tyrell may be friends with everyone, but beware not to step on his ambitious toes. He's not afraid to be ruthless when it comes to pursuing, and getting, what he wants.
She Plays Kiira, the prima
On Point Injured and scared of being replaced, Kiira spirals into drug addiction. But Dvorovenko focuses on her strengths. “She’s a very powerful woman who’s married to the ballet and who no matter what delivers a fantastic performance.”
She Plays Mia, the mean girl
On Point Mia tortures Claire from the start by coaxing her to eat cookies and criticizing her body. But Tyra, a Broadway vet whose first gig was backing up Hugh Jackman in his one-man show, hints there’s more depth to Mia and her nasty schemes. “She wants to succeed in this industry,” Tyra says. “And it’s one that’s torn her apart since Day 1.”
He Plays Paul, the taskmaster
On Point As the temperamental and demanding artistic director of the American Ballet Company, Paul expects absolute, no-questions-asked devotion from his dancers. He struggles with being bipolar, but he's determined to make ABC a success, with Claire at the center.