Flesh and Bone is not a good show.
I keep watching only because they had the good sense to cast actual dancers, many of whom I know. And because there is no denying that Irina Dvorovenko is stunning. But the show is so pedantically plotted and paced that you might use it to teach a small child about setting up an expectation for the audience. And. Then. Delivering. The. Expectation. You will never be surprised by this show.
This, despite all the gratuitous nudity and sexually charged situations. Oh my! Poor desperate ballerina flees to the strip club to figure out her identity! How she suffers. This “alabaster skinned angel” who must exorcise her whore side to feel whole in yet another 2-dimensional rendering of a tortured ballerina. This isn’t me reading the show through my typical feminist lens. This is me reading the show exactly as it is written and presented. It’s dumb.
I mean, Breaking Bad (made by the same creators) was a crazy and hyper-melodramatic show in which the situations consistently tried belief, but it worked because the center of its bleakness was a true anti-hero. Our Pittsburgh ballerina heroine in Flesh and Bone is neither hero nor anti-hero. She can dance, but she leaves one wondering what all the furrowed-brow fuss is about.
Maybe the show’s creator, having once danced, was simply too reverent about La Dance. The show may fancy itself gritty, but it is so earnest and precious it makes me itch. Worse, it is terminally humorless.
Attention Civilians: Real, flesh and blood professional dancers laugh a lot. Our humor may be of the gallows variety and may tend toward the vulgar, but it is front and center to the experience of being a dancer. The body is our tool, so we spend a lot of time tending to it and talking about it and using it and flashing it. We are frequently naked in the presence of our co-workers and we think nothing of openly sharing the state of our digestive system. Or our menstruation. It’s all directly work-related. We touch each other too much. It is decidedly un-sexy. We are aware of our absurdities. We are aware that we are constitutionally unsuited to more conventional work environments and often joke that the lot of us would be an HR nightmare in any other profession. We laugh about this.
Flesh and Bone’s dismal lack of humor is its most egregious offense, with its utter lack of joy a close second. You guys! Dancing is a fundamentally joyful activity! The product of all those years of rigorous training is the ability to enjoy the sensation of physical mastery, the satisfaction of bounding through space in the company of like-minded people. Known colloquially as the J.O.D., this Joy of Dance allows the dancer to transcend physical pain and to develop artistry. Without the J.O.D., there is no room for artistry to develop. None of the fictional dancers in Flesh and Bone get to be artists. The show not only fails to shed new light on the world of dancing, it misses the point of dancing entirely.
Forget this show people. Set your Sunday night sights on Homeland instead. At least there, you are sure to be surprised.