PERFORMING ARTS

Turning Pointe: How a New Generation of Dancers Is Saving Ballet from Itself

Bold Type May 2021. 304p. ISBN 9781645036708. $28. DANCE
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As the song said, everything was beautiful at the ballet. Offstage, however, there is another tune, one of jarring chords of racism, sexism, and elitism, at odds with the ethereal beauty onstage. After interviewing dancers, dance teachers, choreographers, doctors, parents of dancers, and others, journalist Angyal found that ballet “is cracking under the weight of multiple interlocking crises, some of them of its own making.” Impossible standards of beauty and thinness, overwhelming whiteness in casting and choreography, and a workforce made up mainly of women but managed almost exclusively by men are some of the issues that threaten the existence of this beloved art form. Chapter titles—including “The Hidden Curriculum,” “A Tolerance for Pain,” “The Unbearable Whiteness of Ballet,” and “Princes and Predators”—characterize some of the systemic problems that must be addressed if ballet is to survive. Change is coming, Angyal say, with many American ballet companies now pledging to become more inclusive in their training and hiring, and in the new works and repertoires they commission. Angyal’s reporting is thorough and compelling, and some of the stories she relates are heartbreaking. A filmography and a bibliography will aid those who wish to delve deeper.
VERDICT Required reading for anyone who loves ballet and cares about its future.
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