‘TINY Pretty Things’ is a miniseries on Netflix based on the young adults novel by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton. It’s about ballet and if you enjoyed films about ballet like “Black Swan”, “Center Stage” and “Turning Point”, and the 2015 miniseries “Flesh and Bone”, set in the American Ballet School, then we have no doubt you will enjoy this one too.
The series starts with the star dancer, Cassie (Anna Maiche), of the elite Archer School of Ballet in Chicago, dancing by herself on the rootftop of their building. A hooded attacker then appears and pushes her off the roof. She lands on the pavement below and ends up being comatose in the hospital.
A black girl from California is taken to replace her, Neveah (Kylie Jefferson). In the dorm for the students, she is made to share a room with June (Daniella Norman), whose mom is a rich Korean woman.
She then meets the other characters in the ballet school who come from very diverse backgrounds: Bette (Casimere Jolette), a highly competitive ballet student whose sister, Delia (Tory Trowbridge), is already an accomplished ballerina; Oren (Barton Cowperthwaite), Bette’s boyfriend who has an eating disorder; Shane (Brennan Clost), Oren’s openly gay roommate with whom he also goes to bed; Caleb (Damon Gillespie), a dancer who is the secret lover of the school’s director; and Nabil (Michael Hsu Rosen), a French import who’s Muslim and is the boyfriend of Cassie.
Among the more adult characters, there’s Isabel (Jess Salguiero), the female cop investigating the case of Cassie; Monique Dubois (Lauren Holly), the ballet school’s scheming director; Ramon Costa (Bayardo de Murguia), a choreographer who cooks up a new ballet based on Jack the Ripper; Topher Brooks (Shaun Benson), the school’s ballet master.
Other characters include Katrina Whitlaw (Michelle Nolden), the mother of Bette and Delia who wants to be the school’s new director; Alan Refrew (Morgan Kelly), the school’s sports medicine expert who’s in a same sex marriage with Topher, Matteo (Alex Eling), Bette’s new lover who is a singer; and Dev (Josh Pyman), a businessman connected with the school who becomes Shane’s new lover.
The series has 10 episodes and it is presented as a whodunit mystery. Was Cassie pushed off the roof in a case of attempted murder? Who then among the students is the culprit? Many of them become suspects but Isabel, the cop, hits a blank wall in her investigation as all the other students seem to be protecting each other.
The shows also delves into the stiff competition among the students who even sabotage each other in their efforts to get the plum roles in the school’s next gala presentation. There are also family problems with some characters who have serious issues with their parents, like Neveah revealing later that her mother is a convict languishing in prison.
The characters are fairly well fleshed out, but since this is about dance, you can expect lots of beautiful dance sequences showing fantastic dancing. It’s obvious that the actors taken to play dancers are real dancers. Some of them turn out to be good actors also as part of a big ensemble.
There’s also an abundance of nudity and sex scenes, including gay scenes with two males and also a lesbian love story as Isabel turns out to be a Middle East veteran who had a same-sex marriage with another female soldier.
The show also delves into corruption in the ballet school with the director literally pimping her pretty students to dirty old men who give hefty donations to the school’s coffers. But all the serious themes that include race, discrimination, bullying, addiction to pain killers, and even anorexia, sometimes get muddled amid the soapier bits of melodrama and histrionics in the show that seems to pull the viewer into various directions.
The show sometimes have twists and turns that look messy. It also ends with a cliff hanger. A major character is shown dead on the floor of their dance studio and it connotes a second season that will show how this character winds up dead.
There are also many other threads in the story that are not resolved satisfactorily and which they can return to in the next season. The roles of both the dancers and the other adult characters in their respective subplots are all strongly acted, so honestly, we’d like to see more of them.