Writing About Ballet Dancers - Additional Resources
Writing About Ballet Dancers
WRITING ABOUT BALLET DANCERS (you are here!)
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...Ah ocean it has been so long. Every
footstep is memory, like walking on broken bones. Like that old tale,
the girl who wanted to become the best dancer in the world. Yes, said
the sorceress, but each time you set your foot on earth will be like
knives slashing. If you can stand the pain, you will be granted your
'The 33 Worst Mistakes Writers Make About Ballet Dancers'
Written as part of the Write it Right Series (created by Holly Lisle) I take look at the common misconceptions writers (and non-writers) often have about BALLET DANCERS and give you the facts to make your fiction great! Loaded with extras such as video links, resource lists and a special bonus for those who buy it, 'THE 33 WORST MISTAKES WRITERS MAKE ABOUT BALLET DANCERS' is for any writer (and non-writer!) interested in Ballet Dancers.
You can find more information about it and get your own copy HERE!
(I recommend these in addition to the resources listed in the back of my Ebook - and yes, the best ones are listed there! These books, sites and DVDs are to expand on that list - not to substitute.)
NON-FICTION WITH BEHIND-THE-SCENES DANCER DETAILS:
THE POINTE BOOK by Janice Barringer & Sarah Schlesinger
An amazing book all about the 'care and feeding' of pointe shoes. A little history, notes on construction, exercises... but the most interesting section are the interviews with ballerinas from different companies talking about how they choose and prepare their shoes and why. Excellent writer resource!
WINTER SEASON: A DANCER'S JOURNAL by Toni Bentley
Unlike most dancer biographies, which focus on principal dancers, this one is written by a corps de ballet member of the NYCB during Balanchine's final years as Artistic Director. It gives the best insight I've found into the way a dancer thinks and what their day to day can be like, remembering of course that the details are specific to the NYCB and don't necessarily represent all ballet companies. As most dancers do NOT reach the level of principal this is a very important book for understanding what a ballet dancer's life is like when they're not the ones in the spotlight.
FOOTNOTES by Frank Augustyn
Created as a companion book to the TV documentary series this book uses unusual photographs from behind the scenes (including an amazing x-ray of a dancer's foot en pointe while in the shoe) and wonderful little stories and anecdotes from the ballet world. The book is also useful as an overview of the most popular ballets with regard to the basic story line and how dancers prepare for their roles. Easy to read and wonderfully fascinating bits of information scattered throughout the photo-filled book - this is a great reference for writers!
FICTION THAT GOT IT RIGHT!
RESERVED FOR THE CAT by Mercedes Lackey
Self professed balletomane, Mercedes Lackey, put all the right dancer details into her latest fantasy installment of The Elemental Masters series. Each book is based (loosely) on a fairy tale and set in the Victorian era. Here she uses Puss in Boots, though the 'boots' in this case are a pair of pointe shoes and the one wearing them is a dancer from the Paris Opera Ballet. Though a little slow to start and not her best effort it's still an entertaining and light read and for those who know ballet (or who've done some research into the topic) there are a lot of references and little inside jokes and touches that bring an air of authenticity to her heroine. From the opening lines where she describes the dancer carefully checking for any grit that might irritate her skin before putting on her pointe shoes, to the daily required rigors of practice and rehearsal needed to keep in form, despite being hounded by a dark and scary enemy, this novel was a lot of fun (particularly once the baddie got proactive!) and though I can't vouch for her accuracy of Blackpool, England in that time period or the accuracy of her Russian phrases (being unqualified on both those accounts) I can tell you that she definitely got that little ballet dancer's daily life details right!
A CANDLE FOR ST JUDE By Rumer Godden
The most recommended ballet fiction book by dancers everywhere. Rumer Godden taught dance and is accurate both in her portrayal of ballet and of ballet dancers. You may have to hunt for a second hand copy but it's worth it to see how the dance characters are portrayed. This novel is quite old (1940's) and written in an unusual poetic and alternately changing view-point style so may take a few pages to get into the rhythm as a reader but this is a beloved book by both dancers and non-dancers alike for it's poignant and slightly romantic story and stands the test of time. There's no doubt, though that this author lived and worked with ballet dancers and this 'insider knowledge' is reflected in her writing.
AND JUST FOR FUN...
THE SWAN PRINCE by Mikhail Baryshnikov
What started as a shoot for Vogue ended up as a hilarious little photo book of a parody on Swan Lake. Always a conversation starter and a great collector's item. Worth hunting down a copy to add to your coffee table or library.
TO DANCE: A BALLERINA'S GRAPHIC NOVEL by Siena Cherson Siegel & Mark Siegel
Written by a dancer who trained at the school connected with the NYCB and her artist-husband, this autobiographical graphic novel is both beautifully drawn and accurate in its depiction of someone training seriously to become a professional ballet dancer. It's also wonderful to see the dancer drawings are technically correct - pulled up and correctly turned out from the hips - within the artist's style - something often overlooked in artistic representations of dancers. Endorsed by some of the 'big-hitters' of the ballet world!
MORE WEBSITES WORTH A VISIT
I particularly recommend listening to 'The New Beauties' episode where both male and female dancers are interviewed about learning, rehearsing and performing the roles in The Sleeping Beauty. It gives great insight into the thought processes of these dancers - their concerns, challenges, hopes and triumphs. There's more to Sleeping Beauty than meets the eye!
GENERAL FAQ ABOUT ALL THINGS BALLET (from the Gaynor Minden pointe shoe website)
Very informative and researched answers - more in depth than many places elsewhere. It provides quick answers to overall questions about ballet (and modern dance) and points you in the correct direction to find out more information. A good overview of ballet in general, and the technical aspects. It also has a good section on ballet history, books about ballet and more. I recommend you begin in Part II.
MORE VIDEOS WORTH WATCHING
Here's something a little different - a combination of acrobatics and ballet in a re-imagined Swan Lake. The Artistic Director (a long time ballet dancer and choreographer before his current position) said he while acrobats are normally admired for their physicality and ballet dancers for their beauty, he hopes this production shows ".. the beauty of acrobatics and the physical challenges of ballet". Take a look and be amazed!
A movie from the late 1920's featuring the original 'Dying Swan', Anna Pavlova. You can see how both the body type and technique differ from that required today but there's no doubt she was a masterful performer. This film is beautifully eerie in the way the white figure of the swan queen dances her last dance against a black void.
A different collection of ballet photos from the standard fare. Put together by a dancer and fan, this is not a professional video but worth a look. The pics finish around the 2:49 mark before the music and ballet is spelled with 2 't's at the start (apparently a European spelling!). The unusual photos should get your writer-ly brain thinking a little differently about ballet dancers!
MORE RESOURCES TO COME!
(I will let you know of any updates through my BLOG, so be sure to bookmark and check back often!)
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RECOMMENDED FOR FUN!