- Tiny Pretty Things -Is Archer School Of Ballet A Real Place? 'Tiny Little Things' Explores The Dark Side Of Dance Rivalries
According to pop culture, all dance schools are cutthroat havens of dangerous rivalries and students who are always on the verge of going full Black Swan. And in case you were wondering, Netflix's Tiny Pretty Things does nothing to rehab that image. If anything, the series dials up the drama of studying ballet by roughly 1,000 and adds in an obsessive psychopath roaming the halls of the school for good measure. Of course, that got me thinking: Is the Chicago-based Archer School of Ballet on Tiny Pretty Things a real place? And if it is, should I send someone to check on its students?
Thankfully, there is no Archer School of Ballet in Chicago. It seems the school is the invention of authors Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton, whose book the show is based on. But that doesn't mean there isn't a nugget of truth at the center of the ultra-competitive world Tiny Pretty Things is set in.
Unlike the show, the book is set in New York City, which is the home of the famed School of American Ballet. Additionally, Clayton spent some time teaching English at Washington, D.C.'s Kirov Academy of Ballet, where she was given a front row seat to just how fierce the students' drive to succeed could be. In an interview with The Sweet Sixteens blog, the authors shared that Clayton actually had some of her former students read over the manuscript to ensure the accuracy of the ballet descriptions.
"My first job out of college was as an English Literature teacher at the Kirov Academy of Ballet of Washington, DC, so I was able to be surrounded by pre-professional ballet dancers," Clayton explained to The Sweet Sixteens of her inspiration. "They were so dedicated and talented."
The Archer School Isn't Real, But The Issues The Students Face Are Grounded In Reality
However, her students also dealt with intense pressures that Clayton felt were important to depict honestly in Tiny Pretty Things, especially in terms of body image issues. She recalled in a 2015 interview with the School Library Journal that her students would often write their papers on what it felt like to face constant critiques on their bodies, which is a recurring theme throughout Season 1.
"When we sat down to talk about the issues we wanted to dig into in this book, we chose to include these because it’s what I saw [at the dance school]," she explained. "These were things that really haunted my girls. Sexism is huge in the ballet world. Girls are treated like a dime a dozen. And body image is key because they’re constantly on stage and in front of a mirror. I felt that when I was teaching, that really messed up their psyche, particularly because they were constantly being critiqued by others and themselves. It would create an interior monologue that was negative and upsetting."
However, one of the positives that Clayton saw at the school was the diverse nature of the student body, which is something that's rarely reflected in pop culture set in the world of ballet. Both authors were committed to telling an inclusive story that put the spotlight on young people of color striving to succeed in a competitive dance school.
"We wanted to really reflect the ballet world and its hidden diversity," Clayton explained to the publication. "But many people don't realize how diverse it is because of the people who get the main roles and those who are primarily photographed in the major magazines and programs."
Ultimately, it seems that while the struggles the characters in Tiny Little Things face in terms of body issues and discrimination are inspired by reality, the Archer School and it's wild twists are (thankfully for the students) purely fictionalized.