Behind Barres: Girl in Motion by Miriam Wenger-Landis
At the School of Ballet New York, the most prestigious ballet school in the country, aspiring ballerina Anna becomes friends with her talented roommate, Hilary, a French exchange student, Marie, a down-to-earth mid-westerner, Jen, and one of the cutest guys in school, Tyler. The competition is intense and Anna works hard to understand her famous teachers and navigate her ups and downs with her friends.
Some of the dancers struggle with eating disorders, injuries, and depression. Everyone’s goal is a contract with a professional ballet company, and as graduation nears, the pressure intensifies. Although Anna goes to all the ballet companies’ annual auditions, she receives not a single offer.
Falling for Tyler complicates things, but with the lead in the annual workshop performance, Anna gets one last chance to make her dreams come true.
There’re three books in this collection, but I’ve decided to review them individually. The first is written by former ballet dancer Miriam Wenger-Landis.
When I started reading, I realised I’d read the Kindle sample for this book before, but never got around to reading any more of it. It is definitely one for people who have ballet experience – it’s not just about a character who does ballet, but rather completely immerses you in the ballet world.
Though the names of schools and companies have been changed, this is a book about a student making it into the George Balanchine-style School of American Ballet and then learning it might not be what you expected after all.
A few years ago I worked on The Australian Ballet’s season of Balanchine ballets. Unlike in the United States, Balanchine isn’t considered some ballet god here, and we spent a lot of time backstage ridiculing the bizarre, angular choreography.
Balanchine has changed stereotypical American ballet into something I can barely recognise, coming from a European ballet background. Everything from the obsession with being tall (everywhere else, being tall is considered a BAD thing for ballet – what happens when these tall girls stand en pointe?!), to the idea you have to quit ballet if you don’t get a job immediately (it can take a year or more to find professional work in Europe), to the fact there’s no training on Saturdays…
While at first the protagonist’s obsession with an impossible dream of getting work in this one company (and endless talks about being too short, which was insane) annoyed me, I liked how she slowly woke up to the fact there’s a lot more in the world than one dream, one company. Anyway, who wants to go through an entire ballet career without a chance at performing the great classical ballets?! That’s the best part of ballet!
Told in a typical Young Adult tone and tense, the story is perhaps a little spare with the emotion, but for anyone with a ballet background it makes for an entertaining read. No doubt now I have to pick up the sequel, because there’re a lot of open-ended themes for which I now need closure!
Not a bad read.
Review copy from NetGalley.
Posted on 24/08/2013, in Books, New Adult, Young Adult Fiction, Young Adult Issues, Young Adult Romance and tagged Ballet, Miriam Wenger-Landis, New Adult, Young Adult, Young Adult Fiction, Young Adult Romance. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.