Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Reading on a Theme: Young Dancers

I've always been intrigued by the lives of dancers. I'm not a dancer myself, but I was a collegiate athlete, and I feel like I can kind of understand the tough competition between classmates, the grueling athleticism, the injuries, the icing, the inexplicable favoritism, and the drive to get better that takes place behind the stage.

Cutthroat Competition:
Tiny, Pretty Things follows Gigi, Bette, and June, three of the top dancers at an elite New York City ballet school. Gigi is the new, perfect girl. Bette is the displaced queen bee, and June is forever the understudy.

Dancing through Tragedy:
Veda has dance inside her. From her first visit to the Temple of the Dancing God, she knew she wanted to dance. At a moment of triumph, tragedy strikes and she finds herself an amputee with only one leg. Her only desire is to dance again. Will she make it? This beautiful story by Padma Venkatraman touched me deeply. The book is written in verse, giving the whole thing the feeling of rhythm and movement. It was magical. I truly appreciated the hopeful tone of A Time to Dance. Even when Veda was depressed and scared, a family member or friend was feeling hopeful for her. A Time to Dance is beautiful and powerful and I loved it. Review copy from NetGalley.

Reexamining Priorities:
Hannah is a dancer with the Manhattan City Ballet. It's a competitive life that is exhilarating, painfully disappointing, and exhausting. When she meets Jacob, a handsome musician, she starts to question her devotion to ballet. Maybe ballet is holding her back. I really, really liked Bunheads. I find the life of a dancer really fascinating. As a former college athlete, I felt like I could kind of relate to Hannah's competitive life with its need for absolute commitment and its unavoidable (and sometimes absolutely infuriating) disappointments. I was actually a little annoyed with Jacob and his lack of understanding when it came to Hannah's career. 

A Classic Recast:
Christine Dadey is a student at the Rouseau Academy of Dance in Houston with dreams of becoming a professional dancer. Her life is becoming increasingly frantic thanks to a new boyfriend and the troubles at home. With a big audition coming up, Christine needs as much help as she can get, and Erik, a reclusive former dancer, offers exceptional coaching and a listening ear. The catch, she must meet him in secret and can never see his face. Phantom's Dance is a fabulous adaption of The Phantom of the Opera. The dance world lent itself perfectly to the creepy tale. Lesa Howard's story has well-developed characters, fluid writing, and plenty of dramatic tension. I liked this book even more than I thought I would. Phantom's Dance is out March 1st, 2015. Review copy from NetGalley.

Historical Setting:
Set in 1957, 84 Ribbons stars 18-year-old Marta Selbryth who joins the Intermountain Ballet Company. Marta moves far from her family and must establish herself in Billings, Montana. A professional ballet career is challenging in any era, and Marta struggles with self-confidence, injury, and eating disorders (I could have done without that last one). She also must navigate a budding relationship with a handsome young newspaper reporter. Overall, I liked Paddy Eger's story, but I found myself longing for a few more period details to root it more securing in its setting. The dialog is also rather stilted and didn't allow the characters to fully shine. I could never forget that I was reading about fictional people. Review copy from NetGalley.

More dancers here.

Tiny, Pretty Things, Bunheads, Phantom's Dance, and 84 Ribbons reviewed by JoLee.
A Time to Dance reviewed by Paige.

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