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They Were There
BOOKSHELF | Candice Thompson

They Were There

In her new biography, The Swans of Harlem, journalist Karen Valby is witness to the testimony of five pioneering Black ballerinas intimate with the founding history of Dance Theatre of Harlem. 

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A New Kind of Ballet Romance
BOOKSHELF | Di Sophie Bress

A New Kind of Ballet Romance

Thinking of a ballet-world novel, there are certain things that might come to mind: an illicit relationship between a young female dancer and a (usually significantly) older male choreographer, a backstabbing betrayal between dancers who compete for said choreographer’s attention, glass in pointe shoes as revenge . . . You know the drill. All these tropes—and more—are thrown out the window in Chloe Angyal’s debut novel, Pas de Don’t.

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Rethinking the Broadway Body
BOOKSHELF | INTERVIEWS | Di Sophie Bress

Rethinking the Broadway Body

Broadway Bodies is dedicated to “anyone who has ever been told they were too fat, too short, too gay, too disabled, and otherwise too much or not enough to be in a musical.” The book, written by musical theater scholar Ryan Donovan, examines the ways different aspects of identity have historically affected casting on the Great White Way, using shows like A Chorus Line, Dreamgirls, and La Cage aux Folles as case studies to illustrate the issues that arise when bodies are used as an artistic medium.

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What Ballet Leaves Behind 
BOOKSHELF | INTERVIEWS | Di Sophie Bress

What Ballet Leaves Behind 

In her latest book, Don’t Think, Dear: On Loving and Leaving Ballet author Alice Robb calls New York City Ballet co-founder George Balanchine her “problematic fave.” Especially as the dance world continues to examine many of the darker aspects of the famed choreographer’s influence on ballet culture, this is a sentiment that many of us—myself included—seem to be echoing.

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Dancing the Difference
BOOKSHELF | Di Phoebe Roberts

Dancing the Difference

“Dancing was about learning to disassociate,” the narrator of Lola Lafon’s 2022 novel Reeling informs us early on. “Feet like daggers, wrists like ribbons. Power and languor. Smiling despite persistent pain, smiling despite nausea.” This declaration, only five or so pages in, strikes as piercingly as the daggers Lafon imagines for feet. What in this compulsion towards violence, I wondered, is so imperative when telling a story about dance? Scarcely a narrative arises that is not characterized by gruesome extremes. Black Swan, with its body horror, comes to mind, as does Gelsey Kirkland’s 1986 memoir Dancing on My Grave, infamous...

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Why Dance Matters
BOOKSHELF | INTERVIEWS | Di Marina Harss

Why Dance Matters

Mindy Aloff’s new book Why Dance Matters is part of a series, published by Yale University Press, on why this or that thing should matter to the reader. The series has already taken on such subjects as architecture, translation, poetry, and acting. And as of next January, it will include Aloff’s meditation on the many ways dance enters and alters our lives. At different points in her career, Aloff has been a poet, a dance critic, an essayist, a teacher, the editor of the anthology Dance in America, and the author of Hippo in a Tutu: Dancing in Disney Animation....

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Searching for Mr. B
BOOKSHELF | INTERVIEWS | Di Martha Anne Toll

Searching for Mr. B

Jennifer Homans, The New Yorker’s dance critic, has written a must-read biography, Mr. B: George Balanchine’s 20th Century. While plenty of ink has been spilled about the iconic choreographer, what makes Homans’s work distinct is her ability to get inside his head and capture his spiritual and personal life in graceful, poetic prose. Reading this monumental work felt like a full-bodied experience.

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The Dancer and her Writing Life
BOOKSHELF | INTERVIEWS | Di Martha Anne Toll

The Dancer and her Writing Life

Meg Howrey’s engaging new novel, They’re Going to Love You—her fourth—immerses readers in the ballet world. As a former ballerina, this is a place with which Howrey is intimately familiar. The plot revolves around a 40-something choreographer/erstwhile dancer, Carlisle, and her estranged father and his partner, James, both of whom are also in the dance world.

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New Narrative
BOOKSHELF | FEATURES | Di Sophie Bress

New Narrative

Meg Howrey isn’t interested in clichés. The professional dancer turned novelist’s approach to writing, especially when it comes to portraying ballet, is rooted in authenticity, nuance, and honesty. Her latest book, They’re Going To Love You, set to be released on November 15, 2022, is filled with these qualities. 

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Ode to “Serenade”
BOOKSHELF | INTERVIEWS | Di Sophie Bress

Ode to “Serenade”

To many dancers, Balanchine is a figure so imbued with history, he’s almost not real. He lives on through his 465 works, which we study in dance history classes, watch onstage, and—if we’re lucky—learn ourselves. He’s almost been stripped of humanity, raised up to such a high status that it’s easy to forget that he—in his own words—“pulled the toilet chain for the same reason you do.” Toni Bentley, and her latest book, Serenade, are here to remind us.

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In his New Memoir, Center Center, James Whiteside Doesn’t Mince Words
BOOKSHELF | INTERVIEWS | Di Marina Harss

In his New Memoir, Center Center, James Whiteside Doesn’t Mince Words

If you’re wondering what James Whiteside, principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre, did last year during the pandemic, here’s the answer: he wrote a book. How does that make you feel about your own productivity? Well, Whiteside isn’t one to waste time. His new book, which goes on sale in August, is a memoir, with the very clever title Center Center. Center center, in Whiteside’s words, is the name for “a mark on every stage around the world that signifies the center of its depth and width.” This, naturally, is where he aimed to be from a very young age....

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