Chartiers Valley graduate continues key role in The CW's 'Breaking Pointe'


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Allison DeBona's life in dance is beyond real.

Two seasons into The CW's summer docuseries, "Breaking Pointe," which resumes 9 p.m. Monday, the Pittsburgh native who became a breakout star of the first season said her life on screen will be more of an open book than previously depicted.

The new season also promises to be one heck of a ride.

"It's been one of those game-changer years; I feel like I've come to a crossroads," said Ms. DeBona, 29, a soloist with Ballet West in Salt Lake City. "It was like, fireworks, all over the place."

In season one, the Chartiers Valley High School graduate came off as somewhat aloof in her on-again, off-again friends/more-than-friends relationship with company member Rex Tilton. In a promo for season two, she states flatly that they are no longer together, and in the premiere episode, viewers learn why.

"I am telling you, I think people are going to be shocked," she said recently, back in Bridgeville to help her sister, Delaney, celebrate a Sweet 16 birthday.

"I didn't hold back in any which way. I was myself, and I was very honest this season, unlike last season, when I was quiet, and that's where they got that bitchy demeanor.

"People would come at me, and if Rex would start talking to me about something that was personal, I wasn't OK with giving that up to the country.

"So I would sit there, with a million things to say, and it looked like I was just shunning him. But really, it was just my way of trying to protect us, and it didn't come off that way."

Unlike shows such as Lifetime's "Dance Moms," there doesn't appear to be any reason for producers to manufacture drama -- it seems to permeate the lives of the Ballet West members.

Couples get together, break up, kiss and make up. Naturally, the dancers are competitive, some cattily so.

Although injuries were not key to the first season plot, upcoming episodes will deal with one dancer's potentially devastating condition.

"Breaking Pointe" was a bit light on dancing, heavy on the drama last season, which dismayed some fans. But Ms. DeBona said it's exactly that sort of life experience that informs and enhances what goes up on the stage.

"What people have to understand is, we are artists and we thrive on experiences we have in our lives. To us, all that petty, stupid drama really makes us better at what we do."

No one, whether a ballerina or an ice road trucker or a pastry chef, probably gets used to being recognized by strangers after appearing on a television show. That one-way sense of familiarity can be unnerving, as Ms. DeBona discovered after a performance in Las Vegas.

"I had the most crazy experience with a fan," she said.

On season one, Ms. DeBona talked about her longtime relationship with a man who was not a dancer, and how it impacted any chance of her getting together with Mr. Tilton. In Las Vegas, an autograph-seeker noticed when she hugged a male friend who had come to watch the show.

"She says, 'Don't tell me THAT'S the other guy?' "

"I felt like saying, 'Lady, I need to take a picture with you to show to my family. Because, would you ever say that to a stranger?' No. But they don't think we're strangers."

Ms. DeBona compared her onstage chemistry with Mr. Tilton to the relationship of old-time movie actors. "There's something between the two that's special. Adam [Sklute, BW artistic director] surveys the room every day to see what's going on with these dancers, who is looking good."

Although the Allison/Rex relationship was a major part of the first season, "Breaking Pointe" picks up on the story of up-and-coming contender Beckanne Sisk, who is among the four women vying for a coveted lead role in "Cinderella."

Ms. Sisk was shown trying to fit in socially with the more established dancers last season, some of whom warily viewed her the way a lioness might an upstart cub.

"You're going to see how Beckanne and I are evolving [socially and competitively] in the company. She and I are dancing a lot in the same room."

New dancers who might figure prominently include Josh Whitehead, a young African-American from an unconventional ballet background, and drama-loving Zach Prentice, who is engaged to his non-dancer boyfriend.

Rather than toggle between highlights of the dancers at work, then dancers at play, it's likely the overarching theme will include both: "I think they are going to show how our relationships actually affect the working environment," Ms. DeBona said. "It's not like we are in a little box eight hours a day."

The cameras were also on hand when Ballet West went on the road for trips to Las Vegas and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

In Vegas, the troupe collaborated in a special event with Nevada Ballet Theater and Pacific Northwest Ballet. They performed George Balanchine's three-part abstract work, "Jewels," with Ballet West on "Emeralds," Nevada Ballet Theater on "Rubies" and Pacific Northwest on "Diamonds."

"While we were doing 'Emeralds,' [Pacific Northwest] is lined up in the wings to watch us. Like, 'Who's Ballet West? Are they worthy to represent all of us as dancers?' That's what it felt like, and by the end, they were praising us, graciously."

Ms. DeBona said it took about six months for her to come to terms with putting her life in front of the cameras.

"And I feel like in 'Breaking Point' season two, you're going to see me emerging from all that," she said.

"Adam and I talk a lot about it, how I was struggling and how different it was during the [season two] filming time, when I took control of what was happening to me instead of just letting things happen to me.

"I hope people appreciate how honest I am."

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Maria Sciullo: msciullo@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1478 or @MariaSciulloPG.


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