And though, unsually, 99 percent of the company's dancers are straight, according to Ashcroft, there's some equal time given to the one openly gay male dancer, whose ballerina friends take him to a gay bar to find a date.
Another theme that is highlighted and played to the hilt, "The Bachelor"-style: the competition among the contestants, er, dancers. It's all about moving up the totem pole: Corps dancers want to be soloists, soloists want to be principals, principals want to protect their turf and compete with each other for choice roles.
This is no "Black Swan" — the struggle for roles is not, at least yet, literally bloody — but still, the focus on dancers competing, a sure way to make dance-focused entertainment exciting, is a little troubling to some.
"What's ignored is the drudgery of the work," says New York dance writer Marina Harss. "They have to sex it up. It's the same with 'Black Swan.' It's like every moment of the day is consumed with backstabbing. When I've been in studios, it's the opposite of that. It's work. It's not about perfection. It's, 'Let's fix this.'"
Still, Harss says, it's easy to see why ballet dancers would become an object of interest in a culture that values youth and physical beauty (not to mention buff, hard bodies): "Dancers are the embodiment of what this culture values: Youth, beauty, charisma," she says. "I'm surprised this didn't happen sooner."
One former dancer is very pleased about the new spotlight on ballet: Meg Howrey, a former Joffrey dancer, wrote a novel about two professional ballet-dancing sisters that came out last month. She says she's hoping that "ballet dancers are the new vampires."
But Howrey does worry that the emphasis on competition, seen especially in the dance competition shows and also in "First Position," is teaching youngsters the wrong thing about the art form. "Are we teaching people what dance is about, or merely that 10 pirouettes is better than two?" Howrey asks.
In any case, Underwood, the ambitious soloist on "Breaking Pointe," is taking all the new attention in stride. For now, he's on a mission to become a principal. "I deserve it," he says with typical brio. "I'm gonna outwork any dude out there."
Even more, he seems to be on a one-man crusade to show the world how macho a ballet dancer can be. He still plays football and races cars. In one scene, he goes to get his tattoo touched up. "I don't think I've ever done a tattoo on a ballet dancer," says the bemused tattoo artist.
Will Ronnie make it to principal? Will Rex and Allison figure it out? Will there be a second season?
No decision on that last one yet. But whatever happens, artistic director Sklute feels the show is "groundbreaking."
"We're presenting high art here," he says, putting his finger on what separates "Breaking Pointe" from most — or rather all— other reality shows. "Balanchine. Petipa. Maybe this will get people into the theaters."
As for Ronnie, it's even simpler: "We're sharing the passion," he says. "Any publicity is good publicity."
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