Friday, October 7, 2011

Read This, Watch That: Dance Edition

We're starting a new feature, Read This, Watch That- Where we'll pair a book and a movie. Today we're taking you off to the ballet!
Read This:
Bunheads by Sophie Flack
Every once in a while, you read a book and you just know that the author is pulling from personal experience: things read too true and it just feels like no amount of research could have led the author to get those details so exactly right. There was absolutely no doubt in my mind that this author had lived the life of a bunhead.

I've never been a dancer, but I did spend some time working with pre-professional ballerinas during a summer where I worked as a counselor at Boston Ballet's dance program. It was an eye opening experience- I have never seen young women as determined and hard working and utterly devoted to their craft as those 11-14 year olds were. And their FEET- you should have seen their feet, dancers' feet are battered and over-worked and seriously different than any normal feet I've seen. This is a book written from someone with dancer feet.

Hannah has wanted one thing since she was very small. To be a ballet dancer. That one thing has motivated every choice she's made since the age of 10, she moved to New York at 14 and has sacrificed living with her parents, going to prom, learning to drive, having boyfriends, everything, because that's what you do if your life is about dancing. But then, nothing she had to give up would have felt the way dancing in front of an audience in a piece that you've loved forever feels.

That love of the dance and the ballet company where Hannah is part of the corps has kept her going for five years. Now Hannah is a senior member of the corps, understudying for principle dancers and elbowing her way to a spot of her own. She has reached the point where as long as she continues to live and breathe dance, she could find a way to make this her career. Of course, there's also the chance that she can't (A chance which makes every other dancer, even your friends, competition).

When she meets Jacob, for the first time Hannah has to take a hard look at what she will have to give up if she wants to continue on this path. When someone doesn't really live in the same world that you do, it's awfully hard to have a relationship with them. If she truly believes that nothing will feed her soul like dance, then there is no space for anything else--- but if not? What then?

If you ever wondered about the grit behind the tutus and the buns, this is the book for you. The pulled muscles and the joy of getting a part, it's all here. Hannah is a strong and focused teen and her story reads like the unvarnished truth, but it's combined with all the glitz and glamor of New York high society- a taste of two worlds most of us will never get a glimpse of. Bunheads is read-all-in-one-night good and Hannah is a fantastic guide through it all.

Watch That:
picture courtesy of Wikipedia,
see their rationale here
Center Stage 

Now that you've gone to school on the reality of growing up ballet, here's a romanticized version that's got lots of great dancing too. Jody arrives in the big city to join the American Ballet Company- she moves into the dorms, makes friends and dances, dances, dances. But, should she take the advances of a modern choreographer seriously and strike out on her own? Should there be rock and roll ballet numbers? Should there be awesome costume changes? The answer to all of the above is, totally (of course!).

Side note: Now when I watch any dance scene with snow, or anything falling from the sky,  I'm going to think of Hannah- she explains that the snow in a dance number gets reused over and over, so along with the snow, dust and earrings fall from the sky. (You know you want to know more ballet secrets!)

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