I’ve just finished watching the first episode of Starz’s upcoming series Flesh and Bone and I’m a wreck. In one hour, I went through so many emotions that I honestly don’t know how to feel right now.
The show, which centers on a young dancer named Claire (Sarah Hay), describes itself as a “dark, gritty, complex series” and, while it dives deep into the “dysfunction and glamour of the ballet world,” there’s more beauty in it than I think even the show’s creators may have intended.
While I was definitely drawn in by Claire’s story and all of the wounds, both emotional and physical, that she navigates, her dancing is the light that shines brightest — which is both good and bad thing when it comes to her daily existence as a dancer and a person. Claire’s character is layers upon layers of damage and she comes off as fragile and naive much of the time — but she also has the quality that is seen in many people who have been victims of abuse. Resilience.
Claire may need to self-harm to cope, but cope she does, and it’s that tenacity squaring off against her fear that makes her story both compelling and heart-breaking. It’s easy for the other dancers in the company to see her as fresh meat and someone they can intimidate or psych out because she doesn’t speak up, because she doesn’t challenge them, because she doesn’t fight back. I’m sure they’re going to learn fairly quickly that she has other ways to deal with their attacks and that she can be just as ruthless as anyone.
There’s no doubt that dance is Claire’s escape and it’s her ability to disappear into the music and emotion of the dance that makes her shine. Artistic Director Paul Grayson (Ben Daniels) sees that light and, like any creative type with a limited lifespan of expression, he’s looking for one more chance to touch greatness. You love him, you hate him, you want to fuck him, you want to tell him to fuck off. He’s brilliant and cruel and utterly selfish, but there’s no denying that he’s a genius — or no one would put up with his shit.
Every dancer has their own story and we get deeper looks at some more than others. Emily Tyra’s Mia and Irina Dvorovenko’s Kiira are both immediately interesting for very different reasons, but it’s Raychel Diane Weiner’s Daphne who stands out and who first made me see the true beauty in the show. Daphne, wild child that she is, does a dance number in the first episode that is the last thing you’d expect in a show about ballet and it’s one of the most mesmerizing pieces of dance I’ve seen on screen.
Daphne’s performance and another one that is, without a doubt, the episode’s centerpiece are what left me in tears, The real beauty was the dancing and it’s that dancing that proves just what Flesh and Bone is all about. What all the pain, the competition, the cat fights, the dancing until you can’t stand, are ultimately about — that transcendent feeling when you and the dance are one.
Flesh and Bone’s drama is one thing and, while it’s well written and well acted, it’s the dancing that will grab you. It will do so completely and likely cause you to watch all 8 episodes in one tear-filled, heart-gripping, emotional rollercoaster.
Flesh and Bone debuts tonight on Starz.