Everyone is making tough calls during tech week.
Credit: Starz

The American Ballet Company may be in tech, but “Full Dress” is the opposite of a dress rehearsal. While the dancers gear up for an elaborate display of beauty onstage, the episode is more concerned with what happens when beauty goes away: When our ideas and our bodies fail us, or we fail them. Mia and Kiira’s days in pointe shoes are numbered, and their struggle to define themselves outside dance throws the company’s single-mindedness into sharp relief. The more you dedicate yourself to something, the more lost you are when it’s gone.

Paul learned as much when his Achilles tendon gave out. He pours himself into ABC to escape the reality of his own faded glory, and he’ll make everyone around him miserable for a shot at recapturing the public’s adoration. But even Paul has to pick his battles, and his vendetta against Ross isn’t as strong as his need for a successful show. Trey is out as the lead in Rubies. Ross is back in. Pause to enjoy black staffer Reggie’s side eye as Paul pretends to care about equality. (“I suppose I got caught up in the whole diversity dream, because I wanted this for you, Trey — for this city, this nation.”)

All Paul actually wanted was to manipulate Ross. All he wants now is for the theatrical rigs to maybe not break. Tech week clarifies things, and the show is clarifying with it. The Anastasia is fading into the background, Cam is a memory, and those poor underage sex slaves are just a really good excuse for Claire to yell, “Sex slaves!” in an attempt to convince Daphne to leave the strip club. After too long trying to take charge of her life on everyone else’s terms, Claire is finally starting to define those terms for herself. She even stands up to Paul when he yells at her for being late to rehearsal. Paul needs Claire, and she knows it.

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But she needs him, too — not only to give her these opportunities, but to keep quiet about the real reason she left her company in Pittsburgh. It didn’t take long for him to figure out that one. And being late is bad form, though Claire’s excuse is a good one: She was visiting Mia in the hospital. Mia has MS, and she doesn’t have much in the way of hope at the moment; having survived her suicide attempt, she’s moved on to starving herself. It’s a good thing her roommate knows a thing or two about caretaking. Claire brings Mia her favorite kind of cookie, eating the less-desirable hospital meal in exchange for every chocolatey bite her friend takes. They’re friends now, everyone.

NEXT: Claire’s main thrill in life is a makeover

Compared to Mia, Kiira has it made — she’s spent plenty of time at the top, and her only health problem is a fracture in her foot. But her world is as narrow now as that spotlight, and she doesn’t know what to do without it. When Paul suggests that his aging prima maybe surrender the lead to Claire, Kiira begs her drug supplier to shoot her foot with enough painkillers to numb it completely. He warns that she could damage the bones beyond repair and not even feel it, but after an awkward attempt at seduction on Kiira’s part, he throws the needle at her and walks away. He won’t pull that trigger, but she can if she wants.

And she does. Kiira injects her foot and dances a technically sound routine, but after watching Claire infuse the dance with soul — and, maybe, facing how far she just went for one more night of applause — the prima knows her time is up. Tossing her pointe shoes in the trash, Kiira relinquishes her dressing room to the young star. Is Claire ready for this? She didn’t miss a beat in rehearsal, but her head wasn’t in it; all she could hear as she danced was a chorus of doubt. Now, alone in the dressing room, Claire crawls under the desk and cries.

That’s tech week for you: It’s all about figuring out what you’re willing to sacrifice. Claire’s dance career still stretches ahead of her if she wants it, but she has to let go of her hang-ups — in this case, her need for validation. Claire calls Bryan, buzzing him over and over as he ignores the call to help their dad out of the tub. When he’s rewarded with a slap on the head, Bryan leaves his father to dry himself off and takes his sister’s call. She can’t stop crying. “You’re real, Claire,” he tells her — because as wrong as their relationship is, he knows her pretty well sometimes. “It’s okay. You’re real.”

Obviously feeling that same tension between the desire for someone to know her and the fact that it shouldn’t be her brother, Claire tells Bryan to come to the show, then calls him back later to remind him that he’d be staying in a separate room. Overwhelmed, she shoves off her blanket of books and marches to the bathroom, where she eyes a pair of scissors. I half expect her to stab her head with them. Instead, she decisively cuts off her ponytail. Trading self-harm for ownership over her appearance: That’s a step in the right direction.

Second positions:

  • Jessica took $35,000 from the company to pay her daughter’s tuition after her deadbeat ex didn’t pay it — which worked well for a time, but now ABC is in crisis. When a call to Daphne’s father reveals that he didn’t donate the initial sum, Jessica tracks the donation to Sergei, who wants his due as a major donor. This should go well.
  • Romeo is starting to get a little violent.
  • Could this theater be any less prepared?
  • “She’s a ballerina, Robbins. There’s your issue with food.” And Mia’s mom wonders what she did wrong.
  • “Hi Peter. I didn’t mean that jail thing.”
  • “Imagine you haven’t all f—ed each other blind in the bathrooms please.”
  • “What is that, a kilt?” “Unbifurcated garments allow increased freedom and mobility.”
  • “I’ve died and gone to Stevie Nicks’ house.”

Episode Recaps

Flesh and Bone
Starz mini-series 2015
  • TV Show
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