Fierce and Delicate: Essays on Dance and Illness

West Virginia Univ. May 2021. 168p. ISBN 9781952271014. pap. $19.99. DANCE
Dancers communicate with their bodies, and their vocabulary is one of steps, turns, lifts, and leaps. But what happens when that vocabulary can no longer be used? Professionally trained in ballet, Nicholson was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at age 21, effectively ending her career as a dancers; she now teaches and writes about dance. This book’s 13 artfully crafted essays move gracefully from Nicholson’s recollections of her dance experiences (playing one of the mice in The Nutcracker as a child; attending summer intensive dance programs in the United States and abroad as a teenager), to discussions of partnering and the perils of a raked stage, to pieces that address how she came to terms with her diagnosis and found new ways of expression and creativity. Nicholson writes that she didn’t turn to writing because of her inability to dance; instead, she applied to writing the same dedication, devotion, and discipline that she had learned in dance, hoping that her writing would “lift me up from my disease and into the realm where imagination and experience blend together in complicated pas de deux.”
VERDICT An elegant collection of essays from a dancer’s soul that will uplift all readers, especially those who love dance.
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