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Is “Tiny Pretty Things” A Portrait Of Ballet Reality?

The new Netflix’s series Tiny Pretty Things, based on the Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton novel, approaches the struggles that ballet dancers face inside the dance industry. The story is about Neveah, a ballerina who gets a chance to attend Chicago's only elite ballet academy: the Cassie Shore. Neveah then begins to uncover the dark secrets that the school and her fellow dancers are determined to keep hidden. But does the series strictly reflect the reality of the ballet world? What do the real dancers have to say about it?

Laís Mendes do Couto, a 17 year old ballerina, has been inside the industry since the age of 3, following her ballet studies at the Copélia Studio located in São Paulo, Brasil. Laís has already been able to participate in big competitions, such as “Mostra Dança”, where she had the opportunity to take classes under the leadership of incredible teachers from many countries.

“When I first heard about Tiny Pretty Things, I got really excited. Series about ballet tend to portray the same story about a ballerina who falls in love with a hip hop dancer”, says Laís. “As soon as the release came out, the ballet world was tumulted. Everybody was shocked. It was totally different from what we expected. Just like Black Swan, their narrative showed the worst part of ballet in a twisted way”, she complemented. The ballerina also pointed out that there was many unnecessary sex scenes in the Netflix’s series.

But why did the writers and producers choose to represent the dance universe in that way? Are they entirely mistaken or was there a specific reason? Well, Laís gives her opinion to clear that up. “When it comes to ballet, there are two frequently misconceptions: the first one is a common sense that it’s an easy and silly art made for girls - which it is not, but even if it was, it shouldn’t be a reason to not taking it seriously - and the second one is the idea that ballet is a cruel environment that forces the ballerinas to develop eating disorders, selfish personalities  and a hard-core toxic competitive trait”. According to the dancer, Tiny Pretty Things did helped to demystify the first assumption, but they exceeded the limit.

It’s now clear that the series doesn’t follow reality, but how far from the truth is it? Laís says she’d be hypocritical if she said that there’s no competition “From my experiences, the toxic competition is sometimes stimulated by the teachers. Especially in competitions, there are always people trying to sabotage the other candidates, but it’s a matter of value”. The ballerina also added that “My company, Copéllia, rejects and condemns this behavior. We see competition as a way to stimulate ourselves to do better, to try harder. Not to cheer against our opponent. We learn to have very much respect for them, actually.” So, if the question is whether it is possible to treasure friendships inside the ballet industry, the answer is absolutely yes.

How would Laís define the issue between real life dancers and Tiny Pretty Things? She affirms that “Ballet is a beautiful and hard core art. We dedicate our life to accomplish the career we dream of”. However, Laís pointed out that “As any profession, there will be tough times and mean people. And you’ll have to deal with it. That’s just how society is in general”. Finally, the ballet dancer vented her hopes for the future of the Netflix’s series “I do hope that in the next season of the show, they’ll portray the beautiful side of it and stick closer to the truth”.


The article above was edited by Nicole Leslie.

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