In true ballet fashion, “Bunheads” owes a lot to the enduring power of fairy tales. A Broadway princess (Tony Award winner Sutton Foster) wakes up in a town called Paradise (a nice dash of magical thinking there) to find herself in the shelter of a ballet studio run by a fairy godmother—okay, actually godmother-in-law. The princess escapes from a Las Vegas past that separated her from ballet—her first love—to a kingdom of niceness and sincerity.
What makes “Bunheads” an unusual ballet fairy tale, maybe even a truly postmodern one, is the absence of a prince. The new husband who brought the princess to Paradise is dead by the end of the first episode. The few men, like the attractive teenage boys at the ballet studio on whom the camera never lingers, seem merely incidental. Even the handsome stranger Foster met in last night’s episode, a mysterious billionaire, offers advice rather than romance. The princess must solve her own problems, understand her own dreams.
Luckily, she is surrounded by an engaging corps of prima wannabees, all trying to help each other in and out of class while learning ballet. Youthful versions of Foster’s jaded dancer, they strive and dream of becoming ballerinas. And who knows, all that enthusiasm might just be catching. For “Bunheads,” the real question is whether the princess will fall back in love with ballet.