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Winter Season: A Dancer's Journal

3.91  ·  Rating Details ·  409 Ratings  ·  38 Reviews
An irresistible inside look at one of the world's great dance companies, Winter Season is also a sensitive, intimate, and almost painfully honest account of the emotional and intellectual development of a young woman dedicated to one of the most demanding of all the arts.

Bentley's association with the New York City Ballet began when she was accepted by the affiliated Schoo
Paperback, 168 pages
Published November 10th 2003 by University Press of Florida
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Jun 20, 2013 Emily rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. I've never danced, and I'm fascinated and awed by the amount of dedication and talent that it takes to be in a premier dance company. Toni Bentley does an amazing job of bringing you into her world, expressing the pain and doubts while also describing the pure joy she feels while dancing. The minutiae in this is fantastic - my favorite is her description of how the dancers virtually tear apart their toe shoes before wearing them - but she also does a wonderful job of conveying ...more
May 31, 2013 Sarah rated it it was amazing
Fascinating and moving. Bentley describes small moments so palpably and captures the awe and pain of being one small, dedicated and talented fish in a group of superlatives. I also love the 80s New York feel and the references to Teenform training bras, Tab and tuna fish (I could be making up that last one but it seems to fit in). And we get magical glimpses of Suzanne Farrell through Bentley's beauty-seeking eyes. And a nice paean to Mr. B.: "He has our admiration. He loves us all. He adores ou ...more
I think too much, far too much, to dance. For years I've been told this by friends, lovers, teachers and messiahs. Maybe I should have listened and stopped thinking. But must thinking be the death of my career? (15)

I thoroughly enjoyed this quiet almost-diary of a season with the New York City Ballet. Bentley takes an almost mocking tone at times; as much as she adores her profession, she is well aware of the problems and contradictions in the ballet world.

A union? A democracy under a dictator?
May 05, 2013 Susan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: ballet-freaks like me
Shelves: dance
Pretty much like Bunheads, except this is real literature. Infact the similarity is eerie - but since this was written in the 80's, and Bunheads pretty recently, it's obvious who ripped off whom.
Dancers feel unreal to me and untouchable in there perfect world. I wanted to read the ugly real side of a dancer and what makes her tick. I think this is as close of a look as I'm going to get. Toni danced for the NYCB since she was 18 and was affiliated within close proximity since she was 11. She is 22 years old during the 1980 Autumn season shared. Toni opens up on how being raised in the company she was always playing the role of dancer and had no experience in the ways of the world outside ...more
Dec 23, 2008 Heather rated it really liked it
12/23/08: OK, yes, I'm disturbingly fixated on ballet books right now, but it has been so satisfying to read about those who choose a creative path in life. Combine the poetry and beauty of a life dedicated to art with easy-to-read prose and you have exactly what I need right now after finally conquering Gravity's Rainbow. Anyway, just started this one and it's FANTASTIC so far. Also, it's another quick read, so a great choice for anyone who is also obsessed with the world of dance. More to come ...more
Jan 31, 2009 Gina rated it it was amazing
Oh, I wish she hadn't written some over-the-top book later about her sex life and ruined everything! This is one of the best books on the ballet world out there.
Aug 21, 2013 Jewel rated it it was amazing
Shelves: autobiographical
I loved this book, but I think my 5 star rating is biased because I used to dance (though, it wasn't ballet but I knew plenty of ballet dancers, watched them from backstage etc). like the title says, Winter Season is told in the format of a journal. Bentley writes elegantly but also maintains a simplicity that makes her diary very believable.

I think this book is a much better peek inside the dancer's world in comparison to Aronofsky's nightmare-ish Black Swan. so, if you want to know about danc
Sep 14, 2016 Caroline rated it it was ok
I am always a sucker for a story about a dancer, especially when it's biographical or autobiographical. I have to be honest that this book was a little hard to get through. Bentley really does write it as a journal, but instead of "Dear Diary, today I..." it was written more as a stream of consciousness. I found it fascinating the way in which Bentley viewed herself and the ballet world--as if they are mystical creatures. Having a ballet background myself, I guess I never really considered this, ...more
Lovely Rita
Jan 06, 2012 Lovely Rita rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
An interesting, true-life look at what it was like to be a dancer in the corps of the New York City Ballet - when Balanchine was running it. It was really interesting to see what the life is like, but like Bunheads, it cemented my opinion that the life of a dancer is really really hard. You can only do it if you love it more than anything else because it seems like it can often be the only thing in your life. There's no time for anything else.

I docked this book a few stars because I know it's a
Stephanie Innes
Jul 21, 2014 Stephanie Innes rated it liked it
Pretty interesting and honest read for ballet-o-philes like me. Especially if the New York City Ballet is a company of intrigue...The internal dialogue was well done. I would have preferred more plot, more details of day-to-day life. But that might be just me. Her struggles to continue dancing while not getting ahead as fast as she'd like, and the reluctance to quit because, "unless we are at the barre or on stage we are not dancers but only people," was insightful. Unlike other readers I did no ...more
Jul 05, 2013 Brian rated it it was amazing
Winter Season is a window into the soul, and feet, of Toni Bentley, a dancer for the New York City Ballet who danced there during Ballanchine's reign. She thinks -- a lot -- about art, Ballanchine and what her life in art means. At times, it's a bit humid with introspection. At other times, such as when she's an Apologist of anorexia, is a bit misguided, but, word-for-word, it's very real and personal and the reader can't take that away from her. I very much enjoyed the book and am considering r ...more
Aug 31, 2012 Tracey rated it really liked it
I admit that I am fascinated by the life of a ballet dancer and even more so when it is a NYCB dancer during the reign of Balanchine. Toni Bentley published her journal from one season of her dancing career, and it was the winter season where she questioned being a dancer. She discusses the everyday life of a dancer and how alien dancers sometimes feel among non-dancers. She shares her experiences on stage, and off. I love when she talks about the everyday de rigueur habits of dancers - the one- ...more
"It is not often that a dancer, as a crafts-master, has won over two languages, steps and words."

These lines, found in the newly added introduction to Toni Bentley's journal, pretty much sum up the way I feel about this book. It's moving and wonderfully written. It's authentic; Bentley doesn't attempt to sugarcoat things, and the result is a sometimes grim, sometimes happy portrayal of life behind the scenes at the NYCB. One gets a different glimpse into what seems like a magical world of pretty
Mar 02, 2009 Kathy rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoirs, dance
This is a heartfelt diary about what it's like to be in the corps of the NYCB. It is a neat book to read from a former dancer's POV especially to see the awe of Balachine and the characterization of Peter Martins. It has a neat quality to being both very current in Ms Bentley's daily life while being a strong connection to the past and current future of NYCB.

This is a real dancer's diary. It goes through the ups and the downs. The desire to perfect dance while still being in the awe of the magn
Beverly Mozzetti
I would love to meet Toni Bentley

I was also a dancer in NYC. Wish I could have read this then. Along with so many of us who experienced the same painful, beautiful, confusing lives. I would make the same choices had I to do it over. At age 73 I still do tendues, battement jetes, port de bras and stretches........badly ..... but I love them. Great writer. Read Toni's account of her life in the greatest ballet company the world has known. Sorry it took me years to finally read it myself.
Belle Beth Cooper
I was surprised by how much of this was about Toni's angst over whether or not to leave the New York City Ballet. Her description of the dancer's life and sacrifices was interesting, though I found it hard to relate to a lot of the devotion the dancer's had to Balanchine, perhaps just because I knew nothing about him before reading this book. I didn't like the "fiction" parts about a dancer falling in love, but overall it was an easy read, and not a bad book.
Jan 25, 2016 Mary rated it really liked it
This book was a fantastic meditation on a brutal artistry. It went a little long, and her misery got a little bit exhausting towards the end--and I definitely wasn't expecting the epilogue!--but it was an amazing glimpse into a life that is so captivating and yet so, so difficult. As a conservatory drop-out myself, I think that anybody who has made the decision to turn away from intense artistic study will find resonance with this book.
Jan 28, 2007 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Ballet Book Lovers
A disturbing and beautiful account of one dancer's season at the New York City Ballet. Tony Bentley is a member of the Corps de Ballet and describes how the directors call the women "girls," most of the corps de ballet never menstruates, and after performing Nutcracker all December, the ladies find particles of fake snow everywhere! This book paints a gloomier portrait of the ballet world as shown from the viewpoint of a woman who is a part of it, but not the Prima Donna.
Dec 16, 2009 Kara rated it really liked it
Based on a journal Toni Bentley kept when she was a member of the corps de ballet at the NYC Ballet when she was 22. This is not a memoir of a young girl's meteoric rise to super stardom. It is a day to day account of a young dancer who, after having worked, starved, slaved her way to a role as a successful working dancer at the NYC Ballet, realizes that this may be as far as she goes.
Mar 25, 2010 Lamplight rated it really liked it
It's a journal and so the self-concious tone can be a bit wearying--but the anecdotes about how many pairs of toe shoes they wear out a week and how much that costs and how much coffee they drink and cigarettes they smoke and yet all the yummy dessert they deprive themselves of..fascinating!
Mar 11, 2012 Kathryn rated it liked it
Pretty interesting but short read. She comes across as a teeny bit mad but then all the ballet dancers do. Interesting metaphor describing ballet dancers as tools of Balanchine's art - she compares herself to one of Van Gogh's paint brushes.
Feb 25, 2008 Tara added it
A dancer's life from the inside...what it's like to live as a performing artist, specifically in ballet. Some aspects I could easily relate to, others that were totally foreign. Nice ideas about how to deal with new pointe shoes. Short but sweet.
Julie Dolan
Apr 10, 2009 Julie Dolan rated it really liked it
Shelves: teenage-years
My mom gave me this book when I was a teenager. I loved it and have kept it on my shelf, picking it up periodically. It has been years since I've read it but I think I could still relate the uncertainty with which direction to take in life. I loved the insiders look into the world of dance.
May 25, 2011 Adam rated it really liked it
I was able to observe so much more about my own artistic career and its affect on my life through reading this memoir. I like Bentley's writing: have read this and "The Surrender" and hope to read more of her. Very quick read!
Jan 27, 2014 Jessica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, library-book
The memoir of one dancing season at the New York City Ballet. It provided a look into the lives of ballet dancers, many of them training from a very young age with only a single goal in mind - to be a professional dancer.
May 11, 2013 Angela rated it liked it
If I was 20-something, I would have loved this book more. At my current age I couldn't help but laugh at her emotional overindulgence. For sure youth is wasted on the young but we are all the same at that age. A good book for young dancers (not for children)to learn about one dancer's experience.
heather jackson
May 11, 2007 heather jackson rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Dancers - or any Chicks
Chicks- this is a great sort of diary ofthe life of a dancer- specifically Toni Bentley- and I love it!!!
This memoir of a NYCB company dancer is both insightful and irritating, and hardly ever boring.
Jul 03, 2007 Renée rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: ballet dancers, those who love ballet and those who read literary nonfiction or memior.
Bentley’s short memoir is a frank, beautifully written account of life in the corps de ballet at NYCB. This is a just read for anyone interested in the literature of dance, particularly
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Toni Bentley danced with George Balanchine's New York City Ballet for ten years. She is the author of five books, all named New York Times Notable Books, which include "Winter Season, A Dancer's Journal," "Holding On to the Air" (the autobiography of Suzanne Farrell co-authored with Farrell), "Costumes by Karinska," "Sisters of Salome," and "The Surrender, An Erotic Memoir." Her essay, "The Bad Li ...more
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“Dancing may not be the perfect substitute for love, human love, but it certainly requires all the time and thought and energy that could otherwise be dedicated to love.” 10 likes
“Afterwards Isabelle often wondered if the moments themselves were greater or the memory of them. At least the memory did not pass, while the moments passed all too fast. Life whizzed by; she no longer had time to recollect it. Her notebooks to this day retain the story of her desperate attempt to hold together her self, her mind, her reason, her order, her morals.” 3 likes
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