Flesh and Bone: Did Starz's Dark Ballet Drama Earn a Curtain Call?

The adage “Dance like nobody’s watching” doesn’t really apply to the ballerinas of Starz’s new Flesh and Bone. As members of one of the most prestigious ballet companies in the country, these slender, determined athletes must move like every single step, gesture and facial expression is being scrutinized in microscopic detail.

Because it is.

On that tip, we’d like to hear what you thought of the limited series, which premiered Sunday. But first, a brief recap:

The drama begins in Pittsburgh, as 21-year-old Claire (played by Sarah Hay, Black Swan) hustles herself and her suitcase out her bedroom window — ignoring the man beating on her door from the other side — and hops a train to New York City. She arrives just in time for a grueling, day-long audition at the American Ballet Company. (Center Stage shout-out?)

Though Claire is nursing a badly damaged nail on one of her big toes, she bests the competition and is hired by the company. She’s set up in a small apartment with another female dancer, who warns her that everyone is going to hate her because she was successful on her very first ABC audition. That bears out the next morning, when Claire’s arrival in the ladies’ locker room is cause for many bitchy, jealous looks.

When Claire attends her first company class, the genre’s touchstones are then checked off in rapid succession. Paul, the impulsive jerk of an artistic director (Ben Daniels, House of Cards)? Check. Kiira, the aging prima ballerina who’s secretly relying on pharmacology to help her through? Check. The absolute horror and humiliation Claire feels when publicly called out for the simple mistake of forgetting to turn off her phone’s ringer? Check.

As punishment for that gaffe, Paul insists that a near-tears Claire perform a lengthy piece of choreography in front of the others — cold. He, and they, expect her to fail spectacularly. Instead, she nails the solo, leading him to realize he’s got a new star (and perhaps the company’s salvation) on his hands.

Flesh and Bone Series Premiere Recap

Claire’s new success only makes her less popular with the rest of the company, save a few; they include Ross (Sascha Radetsky, Center Stage shout-out!), a straight male dancer who possibly may just want to get in her tights, and Daphne (newcomer Raychel Diane Weiner), who is a stripper in her off-hours and who lends Claire a dress to wear to a soiree for ABC patrons.

All of the success is clearly a lot for Claire to take in, especially given that her brother, Brian, calls incessantly and seems like a big reason she ran away from home. When she finally answers at the end of the episode, he demands to know where she is — pleasuring himself while doing so (ugh) — and she cries.

Starz has made a big deal out of how Flesh and Bone will show the gritty side of professional ballet, and I’m not opposed… even though the premiere’s sex, nudity and terrible closing scene felt like “Look ma, premium cable!” to me. But is there no one in ABC who feels any joy while engaged in one of the yes, toughest, but also most beautiful art forms in existence?

That said, the gorgeous dancing, the show’s pedigree (it’s from Breaking Bad’s Moira Walley-Beckett and choreographed by Center Stage’s Ethan Stiefel ) and the possibility of seeing So You Think You Can Dance alums like Alex Wong in the background will keep me watching — for now.

That’s our take, but we want to hear what you thought. Grade the premiere via the poll below, then hit the comments to elaborate on your thoughts!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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33 Comments
  1. Molly says:

    Very little ballet . Series overwhelmed with all forms of sex, instead

    • MariaD says:

      I’m no prude, but that was my sense. A lot of gratuitous sex that did not really serve the story. I’ll give it one more try and then decide if it’s worth sticking around.

  2. BriAnya says:

    I have a feeling it’s only gonna get disturbingly better!!!

    Having to wait for Ep.2 😫

    ::biting my nails w/anticipation::

  3. Ian says:

    I just took it for what it was. I kinda loved it. Sarah Hay is disturbingly adorable. It kept me in an atmosphere for an hour.

  4. Mick says:

    Sarah Hay is compelling. She is brilliant to watch, but some of the plotlines are just a little too dark. I was expecting more similarities to Mozart in the Jungle and less to Working Girls. Bunheads will always be the standard by which I judge how shows film ballet and Flesh and Bone sucks at showcasing Ethan Stiefel’s choreography.

  5. Bonnie S. says:

    All my life I’ve loved ballet, studying it with dedication as a teenager. I appreciate this series in its debut. May “Flesh and Bone” have a long life–more dancing, please.

  6. Rster says:

    I watched some of the future episodes as well as the premiere. I can say it was all down hill after the premier. The entire series is a fail with unclear motivation, over the top melodrama and almost no ballet. I did cheat a bit and there is more ballet in the series finale but as far as I am concerned that is the only part worth watching.

  7. flowerduh says:

    I really like the show. I watched all the episodes and it’s very dark. Which really works for me. If you watch all of the episodes On Demand you’ll see why the sex scenes work. You just gotta see the bigger picture.

  8. I love how the show nailed the deepest, darkest side of the industry. Talent gets you there, how you survive, what, and WHO you do depends on if you stay there. #truthandbone

  9. Nan says:

    I absolutely loved it..will definitely be tuning in again.

  10. richard blumberg says:

    Cliched in all regards. My real criticism is the article’s comment that ballet is one of the most beautiful art forms in existence. It’s unnatural, produces unpleasant, unathletic-looking bodies (although such dancers have extraordinary talents), and is followed by few people under 60.

  11. Looked to be a cross between All That Jazz, Flashdance and 50 Shades of Grey as the exotic dancer from Pitsburgh makes it to New York and learns sex and drugs rule the dance world. Needs more nudity to be edgy or more dancing to be interesting. As is, it is doomed to mediority and replacement though the girl is cute.

  12. Dante says:

    Got a sense and many similarities to the Natalie Portman film Black Swan, a fun fact, the main actress on the series also starred in that film. But all in all I like the show it brings the dark undertones of what ballet really is.

  13. Kristen says:

    Not having cable, I hadn’t even heard of this show; however, I absolutely love Center Stage, and after reading the article, it sounds like I will like this show. Although, I’m not sure how I feel about her brother pleasuring himself while on the phone with her. I can only imagine where that storyline will take us.

  14. dtulaine says:

    The dance scenes were great. Cinematography. Ben Daniels great. Script was very strong and kept us out of cliche while doing the stereotypes as needed. All round strong. I will watch more.

  15. RazzleDazzle'em says:

    I watched all eight episodes last night and it was definitely worth it!!!!
    Hands down the grittiest show I’ve seen in a while. As a former dancer, they do portray the harsh reality of the dance world and even more so, the complexities of human emotion.
    REALLY wishing for a season two, but why bother following up perfection :)

  16. Badly written and horribly acted. I couldn’t even finish the whole hour.

  17. Hmmm. Guess i watched a different show. Watched the entire season on demand. Nuanced, visually mesmerizing and beautiful in a heartbreaking way. The last two episodes were brilliant. You do actually have to pay attention to every detail to understand what is really going on. Shocking I know. Sad some didnt get why the strip club scenes were pivotal to the story.

  18. Mona says:

    Loved what ballet there was – watching it namely to see the dancing. The story may take off and get interesting – I shall follow it if so.

  19. Hailey says:

    I absolutely loved it!! Saw all 8 episodes in two days. It’s raw, dark and beautiful. Does anyone know if there will be a season 2?

  20. Nancy says:

    I do not understand the motivation of the show!

  21. Mariana says:

    No secreo que aun le falta mas drama el primer capitulo estubo bueno pero creo q ban en caida boy a darle mas tiempo no an echo ninguna cerie que supere spartacus ni davinch demons

  22. Donna Hamilton says:

    I think the show should not be cancelled. I love it although it illustrates some darker sides to the human soul and characters of human kind.

    It is totally believable!

    I love dance, all of it and if this shows the reality of the life of a ballerina then why not display it.

    The human race is flawed and its natural. To be able to bring it to the screen in such a poignant way is art! Although we may not all agree.

  23. Donna Hamilton says:

    I think the show should not be cancelled. I love it although it illustrates some darker sides to the human soul and characters of human kind.

    It is totally believable!

    I love dance, all of it and if this shows the reality of the life of a ballerina then why not display

    The human race is flawed and its natural. No one wishes to know some of these characters exist In real life, but we all know that is untrue.

  24. cinthia ousey says:

    I appreciate the show’s actors, dancing, and cinematography. I’m hoping we get lots more.

  25. Richard says:

    spectacular! A BALLET AND GREEK TRAGEDY ALL IN ONE. Bravo for a job extremely well done.

  26. Tamara Barton says:

    My Mom and I love this show! We wait in anticipation for every Sunday night to watch the next episode! Knowing there are only eight episodes, and it’s a limited series, makes us somewhat nervous about there being a season two…
    Please, please, continue this series! Flesh and Bone is exciting, and interesting. The dancing is graceful and beautiful. There are so many unanswered questions about the characters to just end in one season! We need it to have a season two!! PLEASE!!,?
    P.

  27. Beverly says:

    Flesh and Bone is a hit!
    Please bring us Season 2….

  28. LSH says:

    Although a rather dark series, my adult children and I found it addictive. It is very well cast and the dancing is beautiful. We binge watched the entire season one rainy miserable day and found it disturbingly compelling. We are very disappointed it had been cancelled.

    ,

  29. Shannon says:

    It’s sad if there isn’t Season 2!!! I’m obsessed!! Loved it!

  30. Really a great series dealing with incest,mental illnesses,pregnancy,alcoholism,sex trafficking,greed,and enevy and hate,sexual and physical abuse.
    The unpleasant side of ballet and raising.to the top as a professional ballerina.Looking forward to Season 2.

  31. Catherine says:

    The whole of series 1 is intriguing and compelling. There is very little sense of what is going to happen next in each episode. The writing is brilliant and had me cheering on the sidelines for a number of characters.
    Episode leaves it completely open and so was completely devastate when I heard that Series 2 was cancelled.
    I pray for F & B to be continued perhaps by someone who can see the magic in this series.