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Tiny Pretty Things - Episode 1: "Corps" - Review

Ballet? Drama? Highschool setting? Needless to say, as soon as I heard the blurb for Tiny Pretty Things, I was in. Shows focusing on ballet exist, of course, but there are too few of them (in my humble, and ballet-aficionado, opinion), so I'm never one to turn down a new version of this high-stakes setting. From afar, this show seems like it's halfway between the very cute, and mostly wholesome Dance Academy and the grittier Flesh and Bone (loved both, but the tones are very different). Full disclosure: I read the first book a long while ago and don't remember much about it, so I'm pretty much going in blind. Without further ado, let's dig into the premiere!

It's no spoiler (I mean, it's literally the first scene and it's in the trailer, but for the sake of being careful /waves/ SPOILERS AHEAD) that Tiny Pretty Things opens with a murder a young ballet student being accosted by a hooded figure, and being roughly pushed off the roof of a building. I'm not sure how much Cassie fitted in, but dancing alone, on a ledge, in the middle of a high school party doesn't seem like it'd make you Little Miss Popular, even at the illustrious Archer Ballet School. That said, it certainly doesn't warrant someone gifting you a white rose and then promptly pushing you over the wall, Humpty Dumpty style. But do you know who does benefit from this? Newcomer Neveah, who'd been rejected from the school of her dreams and suddenly has an in. This reminded me of The Mediator premise, and sure enough, you never ever get a highly sought out spot in an elite school, without someone being incapacitated and leaving theirs empty.

So this is how Neveah is welcomed on her first day at ABS: she's led to believe she got in on merit only, gets paraded by "Madame" in order to push the Cassie Incident under the rug, receives piece upon piece of constructive, yet unpleasant, criticism from her dance teacher: Brooks, and becomes the other students' punching ball as they all fear she'll be better than them and get the lead roles.

Ballet School 101: "Madame" There is always a French school director all the students call Madame. Always! I'm not sure this one is actually supposed to be French but her name is Monique Dubois, so one can assume she is. I know we French are the best (ha, just kidding) with the Opera de Paris and all, but still, what gives? Also, based on her accent (source: my French ears), definitely NOT French-speaking. (Better luck pour la prochaine fois, Madame Dubois!)

Ballet schools are extremely competitive and only the best students (if that) make it to principal dancer (let alone prima ballerina) status, so it's no wonder everything feels so cut-throat. But usually, there isn't a dying girl added to the mix. Neveah seems a lot more level-headed than her vindictive new classmates, but I feel like the show is piling on her differences with them a little too much. Her book counterpart is even more of a special snowflake though, so I might like this more confident version more, even if she is a little brash.

Meet Bette, who seems like the mean, top of the class, person to beat and Neveah's nemesis. At first, she's downright awful to Neveah, and it looks like Brooks is using her as an example of how to do things right. But he's as fair in his praise as he is in his criticisms, and takes Bette down a peg immediately after. Unsurprisingly, it turns out that Bette isn't above it all, she's simply insecure. You see, her older sister succeeded in becoming a principal dancer at this very school, and Bette has literally been dancing in her shadow ever since. Did she get accepted on merit? Or because of potential talent if she can match her sister's? That said, Delia is also sleeping with the up and coming choreographer, so one does wonder just how many roles pure talent is getting her. I know, I'm a cynic, but hey. With this kind of evidence, what can you do? There may be hope yet for Bette though, as towards the end of the episode, she lets Neveah in a little.

Ballet School 101: "Barre Fight" (sorry, sorry) New student, new class, and guess what? There is not a single available spot at the barre, for our little newbie to train. Dancers seem to be very territorial about where they're placed in the room (is there an order, best in front and so on?). But what do they figure, that the poor traumatized new kid will be so intimitated by these tactics that they'll just up and leave because they couldn't find a bit of wall to hold on? Weak. (Hello, entire class!)
Shane, on the other hand, may be Neveah's only friend at this point. He helps her find some better dance slippers after Brooks, not stopping at criticizing her technique, goes off on her outfit and equipment. Irony of ironies, Bette's sister's slippers fit Neveah perfectly. Shane seems less high strung than the rest of them, but his relationship with star student Oren is intriguing to say the least. On one hand, Oren and Bette are an official couple, which we learn about in quite graphic detail. The amount of nudity on this show is a little baffling, because completely gratuitous. Seriously, they've never heard of bathing suits when you're having a pool party? Bette is the only one who resists, which feels strange considering her previous behavior. On the other hand, Oren and Shane are way past roommates who "help each other out". What's more surprising though, is that Shane seems pretty clearly out, and yet his longing gaze towards the gay couple he sees holding hands seems to show that his arrangement with Oren isn't really on his own terms.

Oren acts like the perfect student and boyfriend, but this, and the eating disorder we discover later on, prove that he's just as fragile as the rest of them. Neveah's own roommate: June, is saddled with a mother who doesn't believe in her, and the impression that her lack of solos comes from Cassie getting them all. In fact, when we get back to the (supposedly) central mystery: who pushed Cassie, most everyone can be a suspect. Including her own boyfriend apparently: Nabil, the French student everyone feels threatened by (again). Also on the list? Delia's boyfriend: Ramon Costa, the choreographer, who's being blackmailed by text by "someone he hurt". Basically, from the grumpy RA to Madame Dubois, no one can be counted out. The ABS clearly wants the story to be squashed as quickly as possible though, barely letting the detective on the case do her job and promising a new ballet by Ramon Costa without even securing his approval first. Said detective has her own agenda too (who doesn't, on this show?), having lost someone close too. It's her good cop shtick that finally gets June to admit that she does care more than she's letting on, and we simultaneously find out that unlike appearances have led on, Cassie isn't actually dead, but in a coma in the hospital. Which, granted, isn't a whole lot better until we know if she can make it, but still.

Ballet School 101: "I wish he gave meee criticism!" If there's one thing to know before you start ballet school, is that it's a privilege to get yelled at by your teachers. The more criticism, the better! Because believe it or not, not getting yelled at is somehow worse. It means you're so bland, you're not even worthy of aiming to get better. (Sorry, June)

The episode closes with (finally!), some actual dancing, and a lovely pas de deux demonstration from Oren and Neveah after Brooks gives out the partner combinations for the class. Bette, as expected, is not having it and we can expect retribution in the future. In the meantime, this new duet does its trick and seduces the elusive Ramon Costa into actually writing a new ballet for the ABS, as (prematurely) announced by Madame Dubois.

Ballet School 101: "The Perfect Partner" As always, the new student swoops in, completely shuffles the usual pecking order and has great chemistry with another dancer who kind of belongs to someone else. But you must never forget, nothing is set in stone, and you have to learn to dance with anyone, even when you're ballet royalty and your sister is a legend! (Hi, Bette)


All is not well in ballet-land though, as Neveah finds a prickly white rose underneath her pillow, with a cryptic message that seems to say she's going to be next to follow Cassie's fate.

Overall, this episode was...fine, if not particularly original. It's easier to go into this show not expecting too much and just being entertained by the ballet and drama around the characters, rather than count on, um, great acting and writing. I'm not sure I'm going to be fan of a Jack the Ripper ballet, and would likely rather have watched Les Sylphides or The Nutcracker but I am quite excited to see how the auditions unfurl in the next episode. What did you guys think? Did this episode intrigue you enough to want to see more, or are you over the predictable little dramas between elite students? And who do you think hurt Cassie? Sound off in the comments!