- got a question? I might answer with a post! firstname.lastname@example.org
- March 2014 (2)
- February 2014 (10)
- January 2014 (9)
- December 2013 (5)
- November 2013 (5)
- October 2013 (9)
- September 2013 (11)
- August 2013 (6)
- July 2013 (8)
- June 2013 (8)
- May 2013 (8)
- April 2013 (3)
- March 2013 (7)
- February 2013 (10)
- January 2013 (9)
- December 2012 (4)
- November 2012 (4)
- October 2012 (7)
- September 2012 (6)
- August 2012 (10)
- July 2012 (18)
- June 2012 (13)
- May 2012 (9)
- April 2012 (9)
- March 2012 (12)
- February 2012 (14)
- January 2012 (20)
- December 2011 (25)
- November 2011 (18)
- October 2011 (10)
- September 2011 (15)
- August 2011 (9)
- July 2011 (13)
- June 2011 (25)
- May 2011 (24)
- April 2011 (13)
- March 2011 (15)
- February 2011 (12)
- January 2011 (5)
- December 2010 (13)
- November 2010 (20)
- October 2010 (18)
- September 2010 (8)
- August 2010 (11)
- July 2010 (20)
- June 2010 (7)
- May 2010 (10)
- April 2010 (4)
- March 2010 (8)
- February 2010 (6)
✱ you might have missed…
✱ break it down:
The other day I was kinda staring down my copy of Ballerina, by Edward Stewart, and wondering if I could come up with an excuse to read it again, which would make it Time Number Three-
First time was before I started taking ballet. Just, you know, cruising the shelves at the thrift store, hoping for a vintage sewing book, and then Oh what’s this? Ballerina!
Was totally glamorized by all the exotic ballet words. Didn’t know what they meant but it didn’t matter.
Second time was after I’d started ballet. Wanted to see if the book was still as fun after some of the mystery had been taken out of words like plié and penché. And it was.
So I was staring it down the other day and thinking, “yeah, but it’s like 500-some pages, do I really have time to go down that rabbit hole right now…”
-and then BAM!
This email arrives in my inbox:
“I thought I would write to you because the publishing company I work for just released a novel that might be up your alley. Before such films as Center Stage and Black Swan, there was Ballerina: Edward Stewart’s acclaimed novel that follows two young women into the cutthroat world of professional dance. Today, for the first time, this classic novel is available as an ebook, bringing it to new generations of readers around the world.”
And I was like, Yes!!! I know that book!!!
Isn’t that crazy?
Anyway, so the nice lady writing the email included a link to a free review copy of the ebook, and in order to collect this copy I had to check off my occupation from a list of book publishing related occupations, which involved narrowing the options down to Book Reviewer or Media Professional. Which was like, whoa, Impostor Syndrome. Like, which one of these is less of an exaggeration/lie.
I went with Media Professional.
Anyway, the book!
Looking at other reviews on line, Ballerina is described as a delicious, bitchy romp through the (competitive!) (sexy!) (drama filled!) world of ballet. I saw it referred to as a beach read, and the closest I’ve come to reviewing it before was here, where I refer to it as a guilty pleasure.
But reading it again, I gotta say there is some really good stuff here.
And before I say about that good stuff, I just want to point out that this book was written in 1979, by a Harvard grad who worked as a composer in Paris and taught English in Helsinki before settling in New York City and writing. Mostly about cops. What I’m saying is, this dude was not a dancer. He wrote no other books about dance. But this book is amazingly insider-y. Like I would guess he followed a dancer around for a season, Richard Castle style, except that this book is more insider-y than Dance Is A Contact Sport, by Joseph H. Mazo, who actually did follow the dancers of NYCB around for their 1973 spring season.
How did Stewart do it?
Here’s a quote that has stuck in my mind ever since my first reading:
“It seemed to Steph that every dancer had to have an inner preserve of serenity, some private space to escape the world. In some dancers it took the form of stupidity; in others, a sense of humor or the ability to drop off to sleep anywhere, any time. Chris did not seem to have any sort if serenity at all, and it worried Steph.”
(Meet Stephanie, our protagonist, and Christine, our other main character.)
I pulled this out because I think it’s really interesting, the necessity of creating an inner retreat, and it reminds me of this idea of having a Work Self and a Home Self, or maybe a Social Me and a Real Me, you know like how you might say to a friend, “you sounded so serious on the phone the other day, was everything ok?” And then your friend might say, “oh yeah that was just Work Me, she’s a real hardass.”
Like how we kind of allow ourselves different roles in different situations, and that is very freeing, like, for example, I’m not a bossy perfectionist, but Work Self is. And that’s ok because she’s the one that gets the job done.
But when your work is your body, and all criticism and praise of your work is also of your self, it would be that much more impossible to partition yourself, like there’s nothing to protect you or distance you from Work You except for an inner preserve of serenity.
And then all this thinking about separate selves made me notice that this is a theme in a fair amount of the ballet stories I’ve read.
Two main characters who push each other and cling to each other and are basically two aspects of one person.
In Ballerina you’ve got Stephanie and Christine,
In Bunheads by Sophie Flack you’ve got Hannah and Zoe,
In Cranes Dance by Meg Howrey you’ve got Kate and Gwen,
And of course in the movie Black Swan you’ve got Nina and Lily.
Anyway so that’s just a sample of the Totally Deep Thoughts you might have while reading this book.
If you are interested, here’s a link to the page for Ballerina on Open Road Media.
Or just keep an eye out next time you’re thrift shopping.
And here’s a disclaimer:
Disclaimer: I received a free review copy of the ebook.
I was not asked to review the book, I was not paid to review the book, and I will not earn any kind of commission from sales of this book or link clicks or anything like that.
Disclaimer 2: Wooooo! I got to read a free ebook of a book I already own!!!!!!
Scored Apollo’s Angels by Jennifer Homans today at a used bookstore, for the exciting price of $4.95.
I’ve already read it (ebook) (library).
But never bought the physical book even though I wanted it, because it cost like $40 and that’s getting into the territory of Real Money, like, I could measure the cost of that book in ballet classes.
Reminds me of something a friend’s mom said one time when I was a kid, just a throw-away comment that has stuck with me. She was talking about a friend of hers and was like,
“She is wealthy. She just buys books whenever she wants.”
So we were doing bourrés across the room the other day, and it was almost the end of class and I was tired and trying to get to the other side as fast as possible so I could collapse into the barre and possibly die, so I was taking these gigantic steps with the leading foot and then remembering too late that the following foot needed to step right behind the leader, like immediately, so by taking giant steps I was actually making a difficult thing way more exhausting and then I was like,
“Dude, Adult Beginner. Don’t write a check with your front foot that your back foot can’t cash.”
We started working on brisé the other day,
And I was going to suggest that Brisé would make a very pretty name for a girl and since the Adult Beginner is happy with the one baby and not having more I was going to offer the name Brisé out to the world in case anybody is looking,
But then I googled and found out that brisé translates to “broken”.
As in “au cœur brisé”, or, you know, broken hearted.
So maybe never mind on the name thing.
But anyway, what it is, is:
You start with your feet closed in fifth position,
You’re in the center right now, not at the barre,
You bring your back foot out as you jump up into the air but you’re not jumping straight up because that would just be a regular old entrechat quatre, no, you jump forward-ish with your feet so you’re sort of diagonal in the air, meanwhile that back foot has come out to a second position in the air, pointed of course, and then it closes in front of the front foot while you’re still in the air, and then it goes back out to second, still in the air, and then closes fifth in back, and at this time you have landed again.
I feel a little bit broken just describing it.
We did this combination that was brisé brisé brisé entrechat quatre, repeat, across the room, and pretty much as far as I would get was the close in front and then I’d have landed, kinda tangled up in my own legs, so then I’d be totally relieved when the entrechat quatre would happen, ’cause that’s just up in the air and less tangle-legged,
Except suddenly Smirnoff noticed that I wasn’t doing these quite right either and had me go to the barre like we do during petite batterie, and face the barre and hold it with both hands and jump up and bring the front foot out, close back in the air, out, close front and land-
And this is one of the things I’ve been trying to improve lately because I’m not very fast with these in-the-air beat things, but I want to be because they look so cool and the impossible speed and rhythm of them makes me think of those Sheila Chandra songs where she’s doing that drum language, you know, the onomatopoeic syllabic language used in Indian music to describe the rhythm you want a drummer to play, it’s like doong tak ta doong tak takatakatakatakatakatakatakatakata ta and you’re like How Can They Make Mouth Sounds So Fast That Is The Coolest Thing I’ve Ever Heard, and that’s how all those beats in the air look to me,
So I thought of a trick, which is: don’t think about the Out, only the In. Because I figure that as I jump up, my feet might naturally open out, and if I just think about In back! In front close! that’ll be less impossible that thinking, Up! Out! In Back! Out Again! In Front Close! all while trying to stay up in the air.
But meanwhile I’ve been totally ignoring his reminders to the class that our calves should bounce off each other.
Because 1. Too busy thinking about feet and staying in the air long enough to accomplish this massive to-do list and 2. That doesn’t even make sense and 3. Secretly I’ve always been sure I’d bang the one knee into the back of the other knee and the idea gives me the willies. Seriously, even sitting here on the couch typing, I’ve got my legs folded up under me so nothing will spring out and hit the backs of my knees. Gross. Bleh. Creeps me all the way out.
So Smirnoff had me do a few entrechat quatres at the barre and his verdict was that I’m kicking back instead of to the side (huh) and bending my knees a little (probably to keep them from banging each other yuck)
But I can’t see what I’m doing because I’m facing the wall and so we move on and I’m thinking How am I going to improve this, what’s my next little mind trick going to be,
And then a couple days later I was lying on the floor in a pile of baby toys, and I put my feet up in the air and did a few entrechat quatres overhead and it was excellent because I could go super slow without the time bomb of being airborne, and watch the calves bounce off each other and see how my knees were safe from getting bumped.
So that’s my next trick. We’ll see if that helps.
Get those entrechat quatres fixed up, then maybe back to the brisés.
Was in spin class today, and thought of Something Brilliant.
This class I want to take-
Ok it was like this: Get Lucky came on, and usually that song just makes me feel disappointed with Present Daft Punk and all yearny for Daft Punk Circa 2005, but this time, suddenly, I wanted to jump off my bike and dance-
And not just any dance-
Or (Not)Cool Dance.
Or Hipster Ironical Dance?
I don’t know, the genre needs a name, but you know, dance moves that look dorky on purpose and thereby can be used to make fun of one’s self and/or a situation.
Like I wanted to start with that one move where you put one hand behind your head and wave your elbow while with the other hand you hold your ankle and wave your knee and you look like a total dumbass, and then do the Running Man and then top it off with a couple side-to-side Hammer U Can’t Touch This shuffles.
And then it was all over in my mind, Get Lucky was still playing and we were climbing the hill on a seven resistance and keeping our rpms up or whatever but my mind was totally not in the spin room anymore, all I could think about was how much I want to take a class in Big Stupid 90′s Dance Moves so I could bust them out in any situation where I need to say, “I am doing a dorky dance on purpose (but I look damn good doing it)”
That would be key, Gentle Reader, the looking good part. This is why it should be a class and not just me, alone and ridiculous, researching dance moves on the youtubes.
They say that if there’s something you want that doesn’t exist in the world, you must create it, so I should probably shut up and open a class, but the problem is I don’t actually know any of these dances. I mean, The Adult Beginner can fake a Hammer as well as the next fool, but let’s get real here, the Hammer has limited applications.
So I’m gonna be on the look out for some kind of class like this and probably keep on daydreaming about it during spin.
Retro hip-hop maybe? Is that a class?
Meanwhile, Gentle Reader, if this is your secret talent, please start teaching Big Stupid 90′s Dance Class and make it become a worldwide sensation so that even my local gym opens a class and I can take it and feel good that I’ve helped make the world a more beautiful place.
I have this scarf that I really love,
It’s silk, it’s vintage, I picked it up for like a dollar in a thrift shop in South Dakota.
The pattern makes me think of herbal tea and wild flowers.
When I wear it to ballet class, and I turn my head to the mirror to see my beautiful scarf, it suddenly looks exactly like an old dish rag.
Just not my color.