Dance Drama 'Flesh and Bone' Promises to Show 'the Underbelly' of Ballet

Flesh and Bone TCA Panel - H 2015
AP Images/Invision

Flesh and Bone TCA Panel - H 2015

Starz’s new limited series, Flesh and Bone, might look gritty and raw — but it’s the truth.

Lead actress and real-life dancer Sarah Hay, who plays the ballerina at the center of the drama, told reporters on Friday at the Television Critics Association press tour that the story hits close to home for her. "Everything I’ve portrayed during filming has happened to me during dancing," she admitted of the series, bowing November 8.

Created by Breaking Bad writer and executive producer Moira Walley-Beckett, the show, which will also be available for bingeing via Starz Play and on demand, explores the dysfunction and glamour inside a prestigious ballet company in New York. It does so through the eyes of a young dancer with a troubled past, Claire (Hay). Her self-destructive tendencies, combined with her vaulting ambitions, drive her to unforeseeable places when she is confronted with the company’s mercurial artistic director, played by Ben Daniels.

Walley-Beckett was so intent on finding real dancers for the series to the extent that the show would not move forward without them. "The verisimilitude was really important to me. I didn’t want to have body-doubles and I didn’t want to have actors who could dance a little — I wanted dancers," she said.

The show’s choreographer Ethan Stiefel remembered Hay from when she was a student at the American Ballet Theatre, where he was formerly a principal dancer, and they tracked her down in Germany, where she was dancing for another company at the time.

For Hay, the script couldn’t have resonated more with her experience as a dancer. "It’s completely authentic to my everyday dancing life," she emphasized on stage. "Being torn apart by people can be an everyday thing ... and I have friends who take Advil with their vitamins every morning."

Walley-Beckett, unsatisfied with the portrayal of dance in many feature films, said that she set out to show the underbelly of a ballet company. "I feel like a lot of [ballet] movies have catered to the glossy, ethereal optical illusion that is ballet. We ripped the band-aid off."