Ballet Boot Camp
In the pilot episode, called “Deer at Nightfall,”
a rolling wash of headlights introduces twelve contestants
on the shoulder of a highway. The host’s remarks
dissolve behind the ugly purr of traffic, but his command
to Make it beautiful is captioned on the screen.
First up, a long-legged blonde: white tights beneath a tutu’s
black corona. The road a spill of glossy hustle
till she’s silhouetted in a flare of brake-light red. Long pause.
Then a volley of horns as she jetés off the curb
and into a commercial. There’s one week where the ballerinas,
clad as matadors, evade a team of danseur-bulls,
costumes that corner poorly, though the men are fast.
There’s an ice rink episode and one with haute couture
instead of leotards—the stage shrunken to a model’s runway.
Still the ratings dip mid-season and producers
want a change: More real life, they say, more sex, more danger.
So camera up on a little three-bedroom in the suburbs
for the challenge titled plainly “Stay-at-Home Mom.”
Our host throws open the front door: Honey, I’m home
and everyone laughs. Upstairs, he briefs the last few dancers
who wear towels wrapped around their torsos, wet hair
on slender necks. Here’s our narrative, he says. You’re mothers,
and when you leave the shower, kids are screaming.
Someone’s hurt. (A string quartet starts crying on the porch.)
No time to dress, you’re needed. And I’m afraid the house
is something of a wreck. Bonus points if you can clean a little
on your way to save the children. At this we see the floor.
Toy furniture and painted blocks. Picture books and clothes.
A disgorged purse and a plastic menagerie processing out
the bedroom to the hall. We get a close-up of a muscled calf
before the barefoot hero is off, en pointe somehow
in gaps among the rubble. She arabesques on an upturned
toy bin and then, mid-pirouette, scoops up a hairbrush
and pair of dolls. All’s fine until the stairs. Twenty steps
of hardwood, each one pocked with die-cast cars.
Off-screen, a curse, a sharp intake of air and then we fade
to white. Commercials for hose and minivans, a young
celebrity’s perfume, and then, before the show returns, an ad
for lipstick where the models leap from jets in lingerie.
“Ballet Boot Camp” first appeared in Grist: A Journal of the Literary Arts, vol. 10, 2017