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Ballerina: Sex, Scanda...
Deirdre Kelly
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Ballerina: Sex, Scandal, and Suffering Behind the Symbol of Perfection

3.52 of 5 stars 3.52  ·  rating details  ·  145 ratings  ·  28 reviews
Throughout her history, the ballerina has been perceived as the embodiment of beauty and perfection-- the feminine ideal. But the reality is another story. From the earliest ballerinas in the 17th century, who often led double lives as concubines, through the poverty of the corps de ballet dancers in the 1800's and the anorexic and bulimic ballerinas of George Balanchine, ...more
ebook, 272 pages
Published September 1st 2012 by Greystone Books
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I had originally been interested in reading ballerina Gelsey Kirkland's 1986 expose of the ballet world, Dancing On My Grave. I've never been interested in dancing myself, having found out early that I was born with two left feet. However, middle age has found me reasonably well read in the areas at which I excel, and that has given me the freedom and interest to read about sports, ballet, and other things that have never been a part of my personal universe. I already know about my interests; no ...more
Apr 04, 2013 Sera rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sera by: Bookpage Magazine
Shelves: library, non-fiction
Excellent, albeit brief, history of the role of the ballerina in France, Russia and the United States. This book provides an excellent introduction into the genre and paints a horribly negative picture of what the ballerina has endured over time. Like many women, I always idealized the ballerina as the perfect human form with an incredible talent that few could master. The real story is that these woman have been abused, degraded and paid poorly. The good news is that the attitude is changing to ...more
Ballerina is a decent read, especially the first half covering the history of the art form. There's emphasis placed on individual dancers giving context to various points being made and Kelly does a fair job in her presentation. The second half covering the 20th century rambles a bit and loses focus in parts, but it still holds the reader's attention well enough that reading through to the end doesn't feel like a painful slog. My one complaint is her attempts to end on a happy note, trying to be ...more
Jenna Mazur
Wow, great book covering how the art of ballet evolved from the start, in Paris, to present day. We learn about the different problems each century faced: prostitution, catching on fire, injury, lack of funds, suppressed rights, critical body issues and insufficient job coverage and pay. Sometimes the language is repetitive, but the ammount of research Deirdre Kelly would have had to do to create the work is astounding.
Interesting read. Much more readable than Apollo's Angels, which I'm still working my way through. This one focuses mainly the history of the ballerina. I read it quickly after the first chapter (this might be my problem with Apollo's Angels - too much about the history of kings prancing around in the 17th century France). I learned a lot.
Suicide  Blonde
The best thing about this book, about ballet and about what ballerinas have been put through and have done to themselves, is the assurance with which Deirdre Kelly speaks of the ballerina. She definitely speaks of them as strong, self-empowered people with their own minds and their own wants in a way that is sadly lacking in most ballerina narratives.

This book is a fresh take on a much beloved and much examined subject - showing the truth without belittling those she is exposing.
As a ballerina myself for 14 years this book was an amazing book of what went on so many years ago and even now for the life of a professional ballerina.
Dark and enlightening to read, so many things I would have never known.
This was a wonderful read and I have a new found respect for the challenging and difficult life the professional ballerina can endure past and present.
A great book that shares the history of ballet and the ballerina from its beginning to present day. The author is able to share history without it being boring. Very interesting and well researched. A book I will be keeping in my collection to read again.
Very thought provoking, especially if you've made it through the refiners fire that is a solid ballet training. However, some of the most shocking and valid modern and relevant material is barely skimmed over--Baryshnikov, Balanchine, and Gelsey Kirkland. Most of the focus is on the early days of ballet and the admittedly titillating details of how ballerinas carved out fabulous lifestyles for themselves as both dancers and concubines. Disappointingly vague on the horrific Balanchine/NYCB 1970's ...more
A nice history of ballet. Very detailed and presented in an engaging way. The shit-talking of Balanchine is refreshing, given that almost everyone else in the ballet world reveres him without question. (When in fact he was a misogynist asshat whose main goal was to control women. His choreography is stunningly beautiful, but that doesn't excuse him from his serious personal and professional failings.) I will say that this author appears to get overeager, giving you an overview of what is to come ...more
I would gladly make it a criminal offense to criticize skinniness in ballet. Skinny is beautiful, deal with it!
Ruined my admiration of the art form. My daughter will not take ballet.
I would recommend reading this in conjunction with Jennifer Homan's Apollo's Angels. This book was fascinating, and rightly examines the role of the ballerina. I particularly applaud Kelly's research into recent and ongoing situations. As a medieval historian, I tend to forget that situations CAN be modern haha, so I really appreciated the chapters on the current and future state of ballet. I would have liked to see a bit more historical analysis, but that's just because of my own bias!!

Fascinating & colorful, I found this book to be well-written and incredibly well-researched. I'd recommend this book to someone looking for a history of ballet with a decidedly feminist slant, which I thoroughly appreciated. Plus, it is completely lacking the ass-kissing of Balanchine of which apparently everyone else has subscribed. An enjoyable critique of ballet history and the life of a ballerina.
A very easy-to-read history of an art form that has been around for hundreds of years. I learned a lot about its origins, its many challenges over the years, and just how many Canadian connections there are responsible for positively refashioning and remoulding ballet into the profession it is today. Well researched and also provides many biographical snippets of dancers over the years.
Patty Simpson
Interesting information and history, but pretty dry.
very interesting. Learned a lot reading this book.
Christina Dudley
Liked this quick read that is both a history of ballet and famous ballerinas and a discussion of contemporary ballerinas fighting eating disorders, low pay and depression. The historic part was fascinating, and I wanted to hear more about anorexia and Russian ballerinas, but all in all a thumbs-up.
I loved the history parts of this, not so much the "modern-day" parts. Of course, I know so little about ballet as to be laughed out of any real discussion of this book, so.
Lori Straus
Very insightful. Explained a lot about my own dance education. However, I disagree with the notion that Balanchine was solely to blame for the bodily standards. Busby Berkeley had similar standards for his movie chorus girls as far as the move from curvy to skinny went.
An interesting read to be sure. However, it was a very light read on a subject with enough history and content to fill a much larger book. Definitely worth reading but not the book I was looking for to give me further insight into Ballet and Ballerinas.
Elizabeth Kiem
Fabulous look at the dark side of an ideal. Ballerinas as prostitutes, gutter-snipes and eating disordered. And while I'm sure Balanchine was a tyrant and Baryshnikov arrogant, Kelly's got a streak of misogyny wide as a tour jets.
I gave this book a high grade for the fascinating, little known information it provided. The writing was a little peculiar in what it emphasized and what it ignored altogether. But it was well worth reading.
A fascinating look at the history of the Ballerina! From it's inception in Luise 14th court to today, this book gives a quick overview of the history of those who shaped ballet!
A decent take on the development and life of a ballerina. I would've liked to see more on how things are changing outside of Canada.
Fascinating topic, very interesting content. Rather like a very long newspaper article in style.
Made it to page 33.
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Deirdre Kelly holds a master's degree in English from the University of Toronto. She was the award-winning dance critic for the Globe and Mail before becoming a fashion columnist in 2000, reporting from Paris and Milan. Now a features writer, she has written for Marie Claire, Vogue, and Elle. Paris Times Eight is her first book. She lives in Toronto, Ontario.
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