Ballerina: Sex, Scandal, and Suffering Behind the Symbol of Perfection

. October 2012. 256p. 978-1-92681-126-3. 27.95.
Times Eight: Finding Myself in the City of Dreams) book, despite the academic and sociological overtones of its subtitle, is a fast-paced and fascinating glance at a few of the dancers—some well known, some whose names are lost to history—from 17th-century France (when ballet was a masculine endeavor) through the present. Her knowledge of both dance and Paris are apparent throughout, and there’s much to learn about the sexual and economic exploitation of ballerinas throughout history. The eating disorders (for which George Balanchine receives a good deal of blame) suffered by some ballerinas echo the poverty-driven, near-starvation diets of many of their young and unsung 19th-century counterparts. As befits a Canadian critic, many of the dancers interviewed in the last chapters were (or currently are) members of Canadian provincial or national troupes. There are comprehensive chapter notes and a bibliography, as well as several pages of images.
VERDICT Although there’s no end of readily available ballet histories, such as Jennifer Homans’s Apollo’s Angels: A History of Ballet, this title will be a pleasurable read for any balletomane. Index not seen.

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