Ballet as an afterthought: Mozart in the Jungle

Yes, I know that Mozart in the Jungle is a show about a classical orchestra, not about ballet. And yes, the musical bits of the show probably appear unrealistic to those in the know — especially when the characters seem to “play” their instruments without moving their fingers. But Alex Merriweather, a ballet dancer and Juilliard student, has had me shouting at the TV (spoilers ahead).

The first nudge of discomfort came when Alex was first shown moonlighting as a bartender. But that was still fine — he’s a student, probably broke and needs to earn money somehow.

Fast forward a few episodes, however, and there was Alex, with enough spare time on his hands to spend sitting outside Hailey’s apartment, waiting for her to return from her day with the orchestra so that he can ask if she’d like to jet off to Florida with him for the weekend while he shoots a commercial.

But when Hailey turned him down, Alex was utterly confused and unable to comprehend Hailey’s obsession with her oboe practice and dedication to her craft. Er — are you kidding me? He’s a ballet dancer! The very essence of ballet requires tremendous amounts of devotion, commitment and discipline. Him of all people should understand why Hailey decided to remain in New York!

I was glad when the show had less of Alex in the subsequent episodes, as he was clearly a minor character that the writers hadn’t spent much time on creating. Perhaps they felt that with Hailey’s classical training, it would naturally make sense to pair her with someone involved in a classical art form.

However, before writing Alex out of the series completely, the writers gave the ultimate kicker that prompted this piece. In Episode 7 of Season 2, Alex ran away from the filming of a Dance Off programme because:

“ I got a call from ABT. They want me to sub for Prince Siegfried in “Swan Lake” next week.”



What the actual fuck? The renowned American Ballet Theatre, calling up a nobody ballet student, to dance the principal role in one of the greatest classical ballets of all time? As if the ballet company doesn’t have a whole list of dancers to approach for this hugely coveted role first? And as if the other dancers at ABT will not be fighting each other tooth and nail to dance that part and killing one another in the process, before it will ever — EVER — come to holding last minute open auditions for that role?

I know, I know. It’s TV, it’s fiction and it’s not even a show about ballet. But it just was incredibly ridiculous to hear those two sentences and I couldn’t help myself. I’ll be glad to see the end of Alex.


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