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Sarah Hay Somtimes Feels Sorry for Claire in 'Flesh and Bone'
November 13, 2015  | By David Hinckley  | 1 comment

When it came to signing up for the role of Claire Robbins in the Starz series Flesh and Bone, Sarah Hay says that in retrospect, ignorance was bliss.

“I knew nothing about where the story was going,” says Hay. “If I’d known ahead of time, I’d have been frightened.”

Anyone who has watched the eight-episode series, which runs Sunday nights at 8 on Starz, will understand why.

Claire is a young ballerina who flees Pittsburgh for New York and lands a featured role with the American Ballet Company.

But between the twisted backstage realities of big-time ballet and a nightmarish past she can’t outrun, she finds herself in a menacing world where just surviving constitutes a good day.

“It’s a hard journey she goes on,” says Hay. “There’s so much darkness in her life from her family and her background that it really could go in any direction.

“While we were filming, I felt sorry for her at times. She seemed so sad and lost.”

Moira Walley-Beckett, who created the show and Claire’s story, does say that all these obstacles shouldn’t make viewers assume Claire has nowhere to go but down.

“She’s trying to become her own person,” says Walley-Beckett. “She’s finding her strength. That’s what the story is about.”

That said, Walley-Beckett admits no one will confuse Flesh and Bone with, say, Rocky.

“I wanted this to be a real look at the [ballet] world,” she says. “I wanted to expose it as it exists, to peel back the curtain and show what it can be.”

Judging from much of the portrait here, the ballet world includes directors who are narcissistic, mercurial and cruel; financial backers who see the dancers as playthings; and dancers themselves who are jealous and cold.

Hay, who’s now 21 and has been dancing since she was 8, stops short of saying that’s been her own total ballet experience. She does say that audiences see very little of what goes into those elegant dances.

“There’s more pain than beauty in it,” she says. “You have to make it look like it’s the easiest thing you’ve ever done, as you’re doing something that is physically painful.”

For Claire, that means balancing her body at times on the tip of a toe from which the nail has peeled off.


But Claire, like Hay, is from the Gene Kelly school: Gotta dance.

“It’s been a lifelong journey for me,” says Hay. “You get addicted to it. You want to be the best.”

Hay’s own professional ballet career, which began when she was a young teenager in the States, eventually took her to the Semperoper Ballet in Dresden.

“I joined that company five years ago,” she says. “It was a big step to move to a foreign country, because I felt comfortable in New York. But as a young dancer, you look for the best opportunities.”

She moved into acting with a role in Black Swan, and says it was a major decision to take the role in Flesh and Bone.

“I knew it would mean less time for dancing,” she says. “But you make time. I was comfortable I could maintain my dancing at a certain level, because I would have a certain number of hours. When you have to find the time, you do.”

She also doesn’t see acting and dancing as entirely separate arts.

“There are similarities,” she says. “You’re playing a character, and in both cases you prepare by soaking up all the information you can to convey that character on a stage.”

In Claire’s case, what Hay is conveying most of the time is pretty somber. So while she praises colleagues like Ben Daniels, who plays artistic director Paul Grayson, she says the show wasn’t any easier and breezier backstage than it is on the screen.

“When we come off the stage, we’re not happy and smiling,” she says. “We’re exhausted.”

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impressive. Comprehensive.
Nov 17, 2015   |  Reply
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