“Breaking Pointe,” Season 1 Episode 5

By Debra Schreiber/Pittsburgh

It’s opening night for Ballet West.

“This is it, this is what you’ve been waiting for,” said Christiana.

“You’ve been great, so just do it, and enjoy,” Adam told the dancers, 24 hours before first cast and 48 hours before second cast went on the stage.

It’s Ronnie’s first opening night with Ballet West, and Adam thinks it will help him earn the promotion he wants. He believes Beckanne will bring down the house. He knows he has given a lot of responsibility to Allison, but thinks she can pull it off. He only hopes that Rex is focused enough to make it through with Christiana, an older and more experienced dancer, as his partner.

Courtesy of Buddytv.com

So, performance day superstitions? Christiana has a pre-performance routine with food. Beckanne enjoys shopping. Ronnie refuses to get sucked into a routine.

“Everybody’s really tense,” Adam said. “I’m really tense.”

Rex’s and Allison’s families are there to see them perform, which Allison said just ads more pressure. Allison is still nervous about her tempos.

Ronnie’s solo in “Paquita” is a hit.

“It’s what I live for,” said Beckanne of her solo. Adam liked what he saw.

Courtesy of Buddytv.com

Allison was not pleased with her solo’s tempo.

Next up, “Emerlands.” Both Christiana’s husband and Adam were very proud of her performance.

Then, “Petite Mort.” This one freaks Adam out “the most.” This one has props. But everything went well…tonight.

“Overall I was so happy with how opening night went. I was pleased with my dancers, and the audience loved it,” said Adam. “Tomorrow, second cast, we do it again.”

Adam believes second cast is challenging because every changes roles. Allison will be dancing in Christiana’s role, which is really stressing her out. Beckanne will be dancing second cast as well because the dancer she shared the role with for “Paquita” is injured. Christiana and Rex are dancing the leads in “Paquita.”

Everything goes well until “Petite Mort.” Rex fell.

“It’s just not a fun thing to fall onstage,” he said. “But I still had to go one…I couldn’t let it get to me.”

“Falling happens onstage. What’s important is how the dancer gets up,” Adam said, adding that he was proud of the way Rex handled himself.

Next week we get a glimpse of what’s going on with Ronald and Katie…and closing night.

Tune in next Thursday at 8/7c CW for more “Breaking Pointe” and watch full episodes online here.

“Breaking Pointe,” Season 1, Episode 4

By Debra Schreiber/Pittsburgh

“It’s there last chance to get it right before opening night.”
The last week of studio rehearsals is finally here. “Emeralds,” “Petite Mort,” and “Paquita” are about to grace the stage. Sleep and dance, as Ronnie put it.

The dancers are getting excited.

“It’s what I live for,” Beckanne said.

“I live to perform,” Ronnie said.

Courtesy of Social.entertainment.msn.com

Rex is feeling the pressure – especially with Allison hanging around.

The music director being in the studio only adds to the stress. He needs to figure out the pace and tempos for the ballets based on the dancers’ movements. Allison is not pleased with how the director has been conducting her opening. But, as one of the dancers put it, you don’t want to make the conductor angry.

“I just want to get it right,” Allison said.

The younger dancers are keeping it light and fun, but the older dancers are getting stressed.

Adam is most worried about “Emeralds.” Less rehearsal time has been dedicated to this ballet; but he has great confidence in Christiana as his lead. Allison has Christian’s role in the second cast.

Costume fittings are here this week as well, and boy do they look beautiful. Allison is being ballerinazilla though, aggravated at everything, including the costume fitting.

Photo Credit Erik Ostling

It’s time for Rex and Allison to talk. Rex is confused; he loves Allison, but knows she’s not returning his love. Allison is still getting over her previous relationship and knows she’s not in a place to commit, but feels like she needs Rex. They will always be friends, but will it ever be more than that, neither of them know.

“They both need to focus,” Christiana said. Rex is her partner for second cast in “Paquita.”

“What you thought you were comfortable with in the studio can be your biggest problem on stage,” Christiana said when they started stage rehearsals.

“I always get really nervous,” Adam added. It’s the first time the guys are rehearsing full prop for “Petite Mort” on stage, and having some issues. Tempos are causing problems as well, for both Rex and Allison.

“I’m getting a little tired of her,” Adam said of Allison. He does not think she is being professional. She’s crying and making faces and he can’t take much more of it.
“I have no patience for a bad attitude. Period.”

Next week? It’s time to shine in the spotlight. Tune it at 8/9c to the CW.

“Bunheads” Season 1, Episode 2

By Debra Schreiber/Pittsburgh

Two episodes of “Bunheads” down and already one character down.

Courtesy of Crushable.com

R.I.P Hubbell.

So what’s going to happen to Michelle? Nothing as of yet, with Fanny aggressively going about planning his memorial service.  Luckily, Fanny has some friends to help – and maybe keep her under control. An odd mix indeed, but the ladies kept up the humor in this episode.

“I don’t do funerals. There’s no celebration,” Fanny said. “Buddhists believe everyone comes back.” Which translates to party. But what starts out as a traditional Buddhist ceremony slowly turns into a circus – Barnum & Bailey’s tent included.

Michelle thinks Hubbell’s death was her fault, and seeks solace in Fanny’s dance studio…and the bar.

Since Fanny’s in full grief mode, no one’s around to teach the girls, who Boo makes stay in the studio, just in case their teacher shows up.  When Fanny doesn’t come around, Shae takes it upon herself to go and find her, which she does, sad and alone. She also finds Michelle, sad and alone, and tells her that someone needs to act.

So act Michelle does. No more tent. No more plane. No more excessive amount of lilies. No sitar. No more 500 guests. Just candles, a whole lot of tulle, and a dance for Fanny.

Courtesy of Afterellen.com

Fanny seems to warm back up to Michelle, but then comes the news that Hubbell has left everything to her.

Catch this past week’s full-length episode for a limited time only here.

“Breaking Pointe,” Season 1, Episode 3

By Debra Schreiber/Pittsburgh

Tonight on the CW’s “Breaking Pointe” it was drama as usual: the ugly side of ballet, “the side nobody ever sees” the tension, the stress and drive for perfection, and, of course, the romantic problems. And this all unfolded during rehearsals for Ballet West’s upcoming performances.

This week dancers were for parts in “Paquita” and everyone wanted the leads. Adam brought in Elena Kunikova, a “Paquita” veteran, to get them to push for perfection. Rex was extremely stressed about getting a lead.

“His (Rex’s) biggest drawback is that he’s incredibly insecure,” said Adam. He put Katherine and Christiana up for the female lead. Then it was Beckanne against Allison for a role. Everyone wants to be first cast.

“For a dancer, a leading role is what they live for…they’re all trying to be the best…they can be,” Adam said.

But Ronnie wasn’t worried – he was going to hang out with his sister and get his tattoo touched up. He opened up a little bit about his family and childhood. He was really into racing as a kid; his father is very supportive of his dance career.

Adam went back to make his decisions.

Katherine and Ronnie were chosen for the principal lead, first cast. Christiana and Rex, second. Beckanne, first cast, lead role. Allison seemed overwhelmed: she is in all three ballets for the season. Adam isn’t concerned – he wants her on stage opening night and knows she can do it. Elena’s advice? “Just dance.”


Beckanne/Courtesy of Blog.zap2it.com


Beckanne worried about her youth. She is only 19, way younger than the principal dancers in the company, and her friends are in the corps. The older girls don’t seem to really accept her into their group.

While the girls were out, they touched on body image issues. They believe that no one in the company could possibly anorexic. With all the calories they burn they eat multiple meals per day; they burn thousands of calories during a show. Good to hear. Body images were also brought up in the season premiere of ABC Family’s “Bunheads.” Then sexuality: Thomas, 24, is the only gay dancer at Ballet West. The Allison and the other Katie decide to take him out to find a guy, and they succeeded.

Then back to business. Rehearsals for “Paquita”  started. Allison got more and more frustrated with Adam. She said she feels as though he’s rushing her to perform all of these ballets. Beckanne thinks it’s easy.

“Beckanne is incredibly gifted…she is learning very well,” Elena said.

Leave it to Rex to bring Allison’s spirits up – and cook her dinner. Then (big surprise) we’re back to her not wanting a committed relationship.

So where’s Katie of Katie and Ronald? Hanging out with Beckanne. And of course they’re eating too.

“Dance Magazine” wants to do an article on Beckanne as a rising star in the dance world. Christiana did not seem pleased.

Christiana/Courtesy of Snakkle.com

The dancers relaxed in the hot springs and had a mud war after a long week of rehearsal. They know that next week will be just as tough.  Dancing in the studio is one thing. Dancing on stage with props is another.

Watch full episodes for free online and make sure to tune in next Thursday at 8/9c.

SYTYCD Season 9, Episode 4

By Debra Schreiber/Pittsburgh

This week the “So You Think You Can Dance” auditions took off in Salt Lake City.

Host Cat Deely and judges Nigel Lythgoe and Mary Murphy were joined this time by Adam Shankman.

Courtesy of Buffy.wikia.com

The rules?

No booty-shaking.

No self-worship.

No reaching.

Shankman demonstrated.

Salt Lake City auditions have always been fantastic, and this round did not disappoint.

Up first was Witney Carson, 18. Utah may be cold; Carson brought the heat and the talent with her cha-cha and tango.

“When it comes to dancing, I like being a woman,” she said of her sensual and confidant dancing.

That confidence paid off. Carson received the first standing o of the night, a comparison to Anya Garnis, the first ticket on the hot tamale train this season, and a ticket to Vegas.

Next on the stage was another underground dance style: alien space dance. This type of dance was inspired to Lynn, 33, from Pleiades and her spirit guides. She used to be an aerospace engineer but wanted to find herself, and encouraged the audience to learn that they can always start over no matter their age.

Then Deanna took over the stage with absolute grace.

“I just loved every single second of that,” Murphy said. Deanna’s performance was absolutely stunning on stage: beautiful lines, expression, transitions and “wisdom” according to Shankman. She was on her way to Vegas.

Body paint? Life cycle of the male praying mantis? Just one of the outrageous auditions of the day. Gene Lonardo, 22, showed everyone in the audience what it was like to live and die as this insect. Weird? Yes. Talented? Yes. Perfect from choreographer Sonya Tayeh? Yes. Ticket? Yes.

Lindsay Arnold, 18 was up next with her jazz, contemporary and ballroom training to impress the judges.

“I thought you were absolutely fabulous,” said Lythgoe, acknowledging both her performance and technical skills. Murphy said Arnold reminds her of Julianne Hough.

After an endless amount of ballroom came krumping from a little blonde girl.  Mariah Spears, 18, rocked the house with her powerful moves.

“F****** krumping!” Shamkman exclaimed. “So, so that was from all of your rough time on the streets I’m assuming…it says you like to ride horses,” he said, glancing at her form. “ I don’t know how you do what you just did. You blew my mind.” Spears was sent to the choreography round and later, Vegas.

Last up on day one was Murphy Yang, 22, who gave up everything for dance. His parents did not support his dance career and disowned him. But he had his girlfriend. He refused to give up and wants to prove that dance was the right choice by being on the show.

“Murphy Yang, you are an entertainer,” Lythgoe said. The judges were not sure about his technique and sent him to wait for the choreography round where he was cut.

Dareian was feeling confident and excited about his audition. He had a rough childhood and says dance lifted him out of his experience. He definitely lifted the judges spirits on day two.

“You’re just joy out there,” Murphy said, though she agreed with Lythgoe that he needs to work on his feet. He’ll have to work on those feet in Vegas.

Next on stage were playboy/dancer Johnny and his partner Whitney. The pair have been dancing together for just eight months. Even with all of Johnny’s relationship courses, the two lacked chemistry. They were sent to the choreography round. It was a no to both.

Several dancers at the audition weren’t strangers: they had auditioned for the show before and been cut in Vegas. Several of them got return tickets. Would season seven and now season nine auditioner Adrian Lee, 22, be so lucky? Well, he’s on his way back to Vegas; but will he make it past the grueling week and into the top 20?

Dancer Rachel Applehans was hoping to make Lythgoe uncomfortable. Dressed in a lingerie top and rolling around like a stripper…that wouldn’t be hard to do.

“I think that if some things were a little different in my life I’ve move to Salt Lake City,” joked Shankman.

“A little too much burlesque for me and not enough jazz,” said Lythgoe. Applehans was sent to choreography and later to Vegas.

Last for the auditions: Leroy Martinez. Slightly reminiscent of Allan “Big Poppa” Frias.

“You’re f***** awesome!” Shankman swore.

“You are an absolute joy. You’re the kind of person…we want to root for you,” said Murphy. She and Nythgoe agreed that he would not be a contender on the show, but they sent him to choreography anyways – not to Vegas.


Courtesy of Reviewstl.com

This was the last round of auditions before the ticketed dancers fly to Sin City for the fearsome Vegas week, where they will be competing for one of the coveted top 20 spots.

“Bunheads” Season 1, Episode 1

By Debra Schreiber/Pittsburgh

Courtesy of ABCFamily.go.com

ABC Family’s new series “Bunheads” premiered on Monday, June 6.

The show, from executive producer Amy Sherman (“Gilmore Girls”), follows Vegas showgirl Michelle (Sutton Foster) from Sin City to a small town (called Paradise), where there is apparently no movie theatre, for her new husband. But there is a dance studio.

The studio is owned by her mother-in-law Fanny (Kelly Bishop) and home to bunheads. What exactly IS a bunhead?

“Anyone who devotes their life to dance,” said Emma Dumont, who plays Melanie Segal on the show.

“Just someone who … ballet consumes them,” added Bailey Buntain, who plays Ginny Thompson.

“Just kind of an obsessed ballerina,” agreed Kaitlyn Jenkins, “Bettina ‘Boo’ Jordon.”

(Watch the interview HERE)

And then there’s the obvious: a ballerina. Ballerinas wear buns.

But Vegas showgirls wear glitz outfits with big feathers.

The costumes in the opening scene, when Michelle was still in Vegas, were brilliant.

Courtesy of Insideetv.ew.com

As the show opens, she loves her job, but hates that topless girls who follow her act, saying that it’s a terrible message to the girls of America, “Hey girls, forget about actually learning to dance, just take your top off and stand there.”

After the show Michelle tells her BFF that it sounds like she’d be leaving her Vegas job soon for a role in “Chicago.” Then love steps in. Or, rather, a present-toting, flower-wielding admirer who appears once a month to court Michelle. We are led to assume that this has been happening for an entire year.  “Stalker” was probably an adept title for Mr. Hubbell. Michelle quickly ditches him. Quick time lapse to the a.m. and then, as Michelle put it, “show time.”

The “Chicago” dream came to a quick end (a.k.a. a “no” the first time the director laid eyes on her). Back to a run-down apartment Michelle went. Back to the Vegas show. And back was Hubbell, this time with jewelry and another dinner invitation. This time, Michelle went.

During dinner, Hubbell proposed, prompting a humorous no from Michelle… followed by a very drunk yes. Then, hello Paradise, and hello mother-in-law who was trained by Balanchine and runs a ballet studio that looks to have been converted from a barn in her back yard.

At the studio, Michelle meets several of the bunheads. Only the first episode and we’re facing body image and dieting issues for ballerinas. Though bunhead Sasha is thin, the others girls are a tad more shapely, with one constantly complaining that her breasts are simply too big.

“But none of that means you shouldn’t try,” Mother tells a sad, “big-boned” Boo.

Mother is also on the hunt for a missing tutu. If not found, “The Nutcracker” won’t have a Clara. She is preparing her students for a visit from the head of the Joffrey Ballet School as well. And she has to handle Michelle joining her and Hubbell in their home.

Mother provides a less than warm welcome (though she does offer to through Michelle a wedding party) and neither does anyone else in town, especially a sales associate from Sparkle who claims that Hubbell was the only man she ever loved. Michelle and Mother eventually warm up to one another in a sort of “Gilmore Girls” mother/daughter relationship spin.

Courtesy of Poptower.com

However, Michelle doesn’t love Hubbell. And she tells him at their party. He seems to think she will grow to love him. I think he loves her because she reminds him of his mother.

But will we get to see their relationship blossom? Find out next Monday at 9/8c.

Watch “Bunheads” anytime on ABCFamily.com.

Breaking Pointe, Season 1, Episode 2

By Debra Schreiber/Pittsburgh

After the dramatic premiere of “Breaking Pointe” last week, where dancers were on edge about contracts, what could possibly happen this week?


Adam wants his company, Ballet West, to be at the top, and that could depend on who stays or goes.

In this episode, the time arrived for dancers to accept or reject their new contracts.

Ronnie had still had not signed his contract. He went to dancers in the company for advice: they urged him to accept. Ronnie said he feels as though he has paid his dues and deserves the principal position. The girls didn’t seem to want him to go – they like his abs.

Ronnie and Beckanne/Courtesy of sheknows.com

We did get to see the guys let loose at some sports management treatment and Rex and Ronald relax in San Francisco with their family. Ronald’s family loves Katie, whose contract was not renewed, but thinks it would be smart for Ronald to keep his contract.

Romance, flirtation, drama, all were heavy in the air. And so was the stress of rehearsing for the ominous spring program, mentioned but not really paid attention to in the first episode. The company will perform three ballets for the program.

“Petite Mort” is one of these ballets. It’s modern, it’s sexy, and it involves swords, which Ronnie said he thinks represent penises.

The love stories in the ballet must be believable.

Christiana’s husband is also a dancer at Ballet West. She thinks it’s “sweet” when he gets jealous. She believes that all dance partners must have some level of intimacy.

Allison, again, distracted one of Rex’s rehearsals; he remains hopelessly confused about their relationship.

Rex and Allison/Courtesy of ontheritztumblr.com

Allison spoke to fellow female dancers after rehearsal. Some seemed to think that dating someone outside the ballet world gives a “fresh perspective.” But Allison hasn’t seen that. Her partner of seven years believed Allison loved ballet more than him. Perhaps that’s why Allison keeps Rex around.

Katie, back from Idaho where she auditioned for the Idaho Ballet and was offered an apprenticeship, felt horribly uncomfortable at rehearsal. Even though she was let go, she still has several months left with the company. She said she still secretly wishes Adam would ask her back.

“The thought of leaving just kills me,” she said, crying.

Sometimes long, drawn-out decisions are the most difficult.

In the end, Ronald renewed his contract.

“Not matter what, I’m going to be with you,” Ronald assured a scared Katie. She seemed understanding: dance careers are hard to start and hard to keep.

Next week : who will get the leads?

Eisenhower Dance Ensemble To Premiere ‘Rite of Spring’, June 16-17 2012

Laurie Eisenhower


by Julie Gervais

The 19th Annual Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival will present two fully staged performances of Igor Stravinsky’s famous ballet, The Rite of Spring, on June 16 & 17. Laurie Eisenhower, Artistic Director of Eisenhower Dance Ensemble, squeezed in a few minutes with Dancepanorama to tell us about it!

dp: You said that this music has been on your mind for a very long time. When did you know that now would be the time to finally choreograph to it, and how long have you been working on it?

LE: I’ve been listening to Stravinsky’s music over the years, since I started choreographing, and this piece is pretty powerful. I was in NY when the Joffrey revived it and learned a lot about it at that time.

Joffrey Ballet/Rite of Spring

They were reviving the original work and I don’t think there’s any film available, but I think Nijinsky’s sister was alive then, and they were working with notes, and trying to reconstruct it. They worked on it for a couple of years. I also saw Pina Bausch’s version, Martha Graham’s, Paul Taylor’s…but I always liked the music and felt like if I took it on at a very young age that people might feel it was a little arrogant. So I decided to wait a bit. It’s a complex piece of music: mixed meter, and then the meter changes all the time. It’s a difficult piece for dancers to count. I spent over forty hours coming up with my own ‘score’, what I call my ‘dancers’ score’, so we had something to work with. But I had always wanted to tackle the piece; I had an idea for it probably ten years ago and was just waiting for things to kind of come together in order to take it on. Of course I wish I had another two or three weeks, now! But there’s never enough time, and I’m excited about what we have.

dp: After spending so much time with this music, can you say why it might be that something so poorly received at first has become so cherished and exalted?

LE: Well, of course it wasn’t just the music that people had a problem with. The dance was very turned in, very radical and against the ballet tradition. And the subject matter was controversial. And the music is very percussive, and rhythmic in a very odd way.

From a reconstruction of Nijinsky's 'Rite'

So you put all those things together, and people started booing, and it just got out of control. So I can understand the history of that. But the music appeals to me because of the driving force that it has, the percussiveness, the wide range of dynamics. I find all those things very exciting, and I like how it’s complex and has so many shadings. Often these days, I think choreographers are picking music that has a regular 4/4 meter, and it’s easy to have only one dynamic in a piece like that. So it’s nice to work with music that has all sorts of dynamics; it helps inspire the choreography. –> SNEAK PEEK! ‘Rite of Spring’ Rehearsal

dp: The piece has a long lineage. There are iconic movements, poses and shapes that are strongly associated with it. Do these resonate with you while you work?

LE: Well, except for the Paul Taylor version, the other versions I’ve seen have all taken on the original scenario, that of the sacrificial virgin.

Pina Bausch Version

I’ve not done that so it’s been easier to stray from the originals. Also, for the last ten years I’ve purposely not been watching any of the original versions. I didn’t want any of their images in my brain. I think that when you watch other dances, sometimes that choreography can come out subconsciously and I try to avoid that as much as I can.

dp: You have chosen to forge your own path with the storyline, forgoing the tale of maiden ritual sacrifice and instead using a theme of human discovery and innovation. Can you say what led you to this? Were there specific images that the music conjured, and do you depict any of these ideas in a literal way on the stage?

LE: Well, I actually choreographed a dance in 1999 called ‘Rites and Passages’. Many years before that, a choreography teacher had told me that you couldn’t choreograph a dance about the history of the world. And I thought, ‘Well why not?’ So, I did! But I was a younger choreographer at that time, and I liked the concept but later on, felt like I didn’t completely realize it, and I always wanted to go back to it. And then, listening to the ‘Rite of Spring’ music, I thought that I could merge that idea with this music. So it all made sense to evolve those ideas through this music.

dp: And do you think that the teacher was saying that it’s just too broad of a concept?

LE: Yes, and I understood what she was saying, but I think how you approach things is what matters. In a way, I am dealing with the whole history of the world but specifically, with the idea of change – things have transformed our society and how conflicts arise with change.

dp: How many dancers are you working with, and is there more solo/partnering work or more corps work or is it kind of a balance?

LE: There are 10 dancers, and they are mostly working as one tribe. There are some solos and duets. Originally I had wanted 20 dancers but I decided to narrow it down and I’m glad I did. The 10 dancers really fill up the stage and 20 would have been crowded, so I think it worked out well. And we have a set design, and there’s all sorts of props, so there logistical craziness but I think it will be exciting when it all comes together.

dp: Can you name just a few of the things you are most excited about, for this premiere, maybe things that you want to tell the audience to look out for?

LE: Well, for one the music is going to be really incredible. The Pridonoffs, Elisabeth and Eugene, are going to be performing the music with some percussionists, and that will be amazing. I have so many collaborators on this project and I’d like the audience to notice their work too – costumes designed by Monika Essen and executed by Shari Bennett. My lighting designer is Kerro Knox 3 and set design is by Jeremy Barnett. In terms of the choreography, I like the work to speak for itself. I know some people tend to focus on the technique of the dancers, others on the figuring out the story. This is being performed at the Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival, so a lot of the audience will be chamber music fans. Overall, I’m just excited for that moment when an audience sees a piece for the first time. It’s one of the thrills of being a choreographer!
Tickets to see The Rite of Spring on Saturday, June 16 at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday, June 17 at 7:30 p.m. at Seligman Performing Arts Center are $40 and $10 for students (25 and under). Tickets are $5 more at the door. Subscription packages are available. For more information, call 248-559-2095 or visit www.greatlakeschambermusic.org.