"Off Kilter" has real dancers playing dancers. Still courtesy CBC Arts

Grab the Popcorn—The First Episode of "Off Kilter" is Here, and It's Just As Hilarious As We'd Hoped

"It just...always looks better in my head."

While that might not be something any of us would want to hear from a choreographer, it's a brilliant introduction to "Off Kilter" and the odd, insecure character at its center, Milton Frank. The ballet mockumentary (think "The Office" or "Parks and Recreation," but with pointe shoes) follows Frank (dancer-turned-filmmaker Alejandro Alvarez Cadilla) as he comes back to the studio to try his hand at choreographing for the first time since a plagiarism scandal derailed his fledgling career back in the '90s.

We've been pretty excited about the series for a while, and now the wait is finally over. The first episode of the show, "The Denial," went live earlier today, and it's every bit as awkward, hilarious and relatable as we hoped.


In the course of its eight-episode season, "Off Kilter" nods to some big issues in the dance world. Ageism, the gender pay-gap and sexual harassment are all addressed on some level, in the midst of hijinks caused by an uptight building manager and an enterprising public relations guru.

Plus, the dancing is excellent—but then, with National Ballet of Canada stars Brendan Saye, Harrison James and Chelsy Meiss joining former Royal Winnipeg Ballet soloist Sarah Murphy-Dyson to form the cast of Frank's new ballet (choreographed by Shawn Hounsell), we expected nothing less.

Sarah Murphy-Dyson plays Anna, a 43-year-old ballerina coming face-to-face with ageism in the ballet world. Still courtesy CBC Arts

Keep an eye on the CBC Arts YouTube channel: They'll be posting one episode a week as we watch Frank's definitely-not-a-comeback take shape.

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Luke Isley, Courtesy Ballet West

How Do Choreographers Bring Something Fresh to Music We've Heard Over and Over?

In 2007, Oregon Ballet Theatre asked Nicolo Fonte to choreograph a ballet to Maurice Ravel's Boléro. "I said, 'No way. I'm not going near it,' " recalls Fonte. "I don't want to compete with the Béjart version, ice skaters or the movie 10. No, no, no!"

But Fonte's husband encouraged him to "just listen and get a visceral reaction." He did. And Bolero turned into one of Fonte's most requested and successful ballets.

Not all dance renditions of similar warhorse scores have worked out so well. Yet the irresistible siren song of pieces like Stravinsky's The Firebird and The Rite of Spring, as well as the perennial Carmina Burana by Carl Orff, seem too magnetic for choreographers to ignore.

And there are reasons for their popularity. Some were commissioned specifically for dance: Rite and Firebird for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes; Boléro for dance diva Ida Rubinstein's post–Ballets Russes troupe. Hypnotic rhythms (Arvo Pärt's Spiegel im Spiegel) and danceable melodies (Bizet's Carmen) make a case for physical eye candy. Audience familiarity can also help box office receipts. Still, many choreographers have been sabotaged by the formidable nature and Muzak-y overuse of these iconic compositions.

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