Don’t Think, Dear: On Loving and Leaving Ballet

Mariner: Houghton Harcourt. Feb. 2023. 304p. ISBN 9780358653332. $28.99. DANCE
Robb (Why We Dream) delves into ballet culture and the experience of taking ballet classes in her youth and how it stayed with her and her classmates. She took classes at the School of American Ballet, founded by George Balanchine. Robb interweaves tales of Misty Copeland, American Ballet Theatre’s first Black Principal ballerina, and Margot Fonteyn, an iconic figure in British ballet, but she also looks at everyday students who take classes for fun or because they think they can become prima ballerinas. The majority of ballet choreography is by men, while women make up the majority of dancers. The book indicates that sexual politics is key in getting cast. The author captures the ballet world, replete with anorexia and body obsession, and includes a section on Gelsey Kirkland and the struggles she detailed in her memoir Dancing on My Grave. Robb immerses readers in the dance milieu and what sacrifices are made for a beautiful fantasy. There is an extensive bibliography.
VERDICT Captures ballet’s romance as well as its dark and traumatic side.
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