So, there’s no way for me to deny that at multiple points in my life, I have wholeheartedly dreamed of being a ballerina. At a much older age than I’d care to admit, I would spend my days admiring their dainty and perfectly prim demeanours, dreaming of one day being able to delicately leap across the stage in a gorgeous tulle dress, into the arms of a strong muscled man in pink tights.
The latest Netflix original ‘Tiny Pretty Things’ is one of the first series that extensively follows the dark backdrop of the dance world at the elite fictional Archer School of Ballet, set in the streets of Chicago and led by the glamorous, doll-like director of the institution, Madame Monique Dubois (Lauren Holly). After the school’s star pupil Cassie Shore (Anna Maiche) supposedly “falls” off the edge of the roof, the school does some serious damage control and dredges up a full scholarship offer to Neveah Stroyer (Kylie Jefferson), a young, talented but underprivileged dancer from California.
Imagine ‘Centre Stage’ meets ‘Pretty Little Liars’, and basically any other teen drama show that you can think of and you will be able to form the base plotline for this before you click the first episode. As we see Neveah introduced to the corrupt and back-stabbing drama at Archer, namely with the new Miss Queen Bee, Bette Whitlaw (Casimere Jollette), the story also (incredibly) slowly unravels the ‘whodunnit?’ question of how Cassie ended up slammed onto the pavement with apparently not a single witness.
The ballet politics and ongoing investigation into each of the student’s alibis reveals a deeply corrupt industry that feeds right up to the most high-ranking stakeholders of the school, and makes you wonder how those graceful presences on stage manage to mask such a dark reality. The melodramatic narrative is overlaid with some seriously talented dancers and ballet sequences, preventing ‘Tiny Pretty Things’ from falling into complete soap-opera territory. And whilst I must give absolute credit to the virtually unknown main cast which I assume the majority are actually real dancers in their first acting gig the shakiness of the writing is all too obvious. The lack of character development and effective cohesion hidden behind a smokescreen of aggressively sexual antics and graphic nightmare scenes. You’ll find yourself at too many points in the show shaking your head at drama being created just for the sake of it.
‘Tiny Pretty Things’ shows a lot of potential, especially for the cast and choreography, however ultimately struggles to differentiate from an overwhelming number of similar teen drama series. The series is only ten-episodes long yet it felt as if the story was constantly pulled back and forth between too many different directions, unnaturally forced together in order to cram as much in as possible. A bit of advice: Don’t look down at your phone for even a second because when your eyes return to the screen you will be extremely puzzled for the next twenty minutes at what the hell is going on.
Bottom line? It’s a great distraction if you feel like piling on the couch for a few days and immersing yourself in a sharply choreographed Chicago backdrop. It might be useful in helping to ignore the arguments, screaming kids and judgemental relatives that come from being home for the holidays. But any other day, I’d say it’s an unnecessary layer of drama to add to your mental rotation and you’d probably be more stable off without it. Take me for example – the show has been in my head all week and I think I’d really like to stop thinking about it now.
Watch the trailer for ‘Tiny Pretty Things’ here. The series is available to stream exclusively on Netflix now.