Ballet

Disney+ takes viewers behind the scenes of exclusive ballet school in ‘On Pointe’

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You don’t necessarily have to be a ballet fan to enjoy “On Pointe.” But it certainly doesn’t hurt.

Premiering Friday on Disney+, the six-part documentary series takes viewers behind the scenes of the world-renowned School of American Ballet in New York City. Filmed prior to the pandemic in 2019, the series follows the lives of students ages 8-18 as they undergo rigorous training in the hopes that one day they realize their dream of dancing for a professional ballet company.

The students here fall into two groups: the older students from all over the country who are training for professional careers, and the younger ones from the local area who are being put through their paces as they rehearse and perform in New York City Ballet’s production of “George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker” at Lincoln Center.

Among the youths viewers will meet are Ruby, an older student selected for a coveted position that will enable her to continue her craft; Isabella, a younger student from a Dominican family whose father is in the process of gaining U.S. citizenship; Sophia, a younger student who lands the role of young Marie in “The Nutcracker”; and Taela, an older student from New Orleans who is new to the school.

The series comes from Imagine Documentaries and DCTV, which gained rare access to the notoriously private institution. Sara Bernstein, an executive producer with Ron Howard, Brian Grazer and Justin Wilkes, thinks this series will open some eyes.

“I was a fan of ballet but I certainly did not understand just the depth of the training, the dedication, the passion that the students at the school really exude,” she said. “As well as the staff there — the wonderful teachers, many of whom had danced for the New York City Ballet, which the school is affiliated with. So I think it’s surprising to really understand that this is an art form as well as in its own way like a real sport. I mean, these children are practically athletes.

“And what else is really wonderful to discover in this film,” she added, “is just the support and dedication and sacrifice of the students’ families. And these students come from all over New York City and all over the country. … These are kids from all different socio-economic, ethnic — you know, they really are sort of the melting pot that makes our New York City so wonderful.”

Of course, behind these kids are the parents. These are not stage mothers and fathers who push their children into show business careers they really don’t want but rather supportive parents willing to sacrifice a lot of time and money to help their child pursue their dreams.

“I have to say, nobody complains in our show,” Bernstein said of the parents. “I think they’re just so excited to see the passion and the enthusiasm and really the dedication that their kids are taking on. … It’s just really wonderful to see kids show such an interest in an art form like ballet. And you also see that anyone can try, and I think that’s really important, too.”

— Zap2it

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