AOL released its new web series “city.ballet” today. Following the growing trend of straight-to-Netflix series, all 12 episodes about the inner workings of New York City Ballet are now available online, each about six to eight minutes long. But that’s no reason we can’t appreciate them one week at a time, like a good old-fashioned TV show.
The first episode breaks down the ranking system at NYCB, unique for training nearly all of its dancers at the School of American Ballet and requiring students to climb—one step at a time—from a coveted but tenuous apprentice role to corps member, soloist and eventually (hopefully) principal. It’s informative to nondancers and in many ways even to balletomanes; refreshingly candid interviews with dancers reveal lesser-known pressures of each rank.
We see the new apprentices, who rarely get the spotlight, let alone the microphone, speak about the pressure to prove themselves. And principal Teresa Reichlen admits that being a soloist was the hardest part of her career, because she felt stuck in between being a fresh new talent and a top dog. Ashley Bouder even offers some performance advice. She says, “We’re told a lot when we’re learning things, ‘Do it as big as you can, and I’ll tell you when it’s too much.’”
For all the hype about the drama of competing to “make it big” in a “cutthroat industry,” it looks like “city.ballet.” might be taking a more educational, documentary approach. On the other hand, we haven’t seen the “Relationships,” “Sacrifice” or “Injuries” installments yet, so perhaps we’ll get some drama after all.