Below is the latest Book Stew Review from Eileen MacDougall, the host of the 80+ episodes of Book Stew, a 30-minute video and podcast devoted to writing in all forms, featuring authors, playwrights, voice artists, and journalists.
‘Turning Pointe: How A New Generation Of Dancers Is Saving Ballet From Itself’ by Chloe Angyal
This book is the muckraking equivalent of Critical Race Theory for ballet. This painful analysis of the many changes required to make ballet relevant for dancers, choreographers, and fans is tough fare from a whistleblower who shreds the pretty face of the art’s French court origins — white, male-dominated, physically abusive — and sets an agenda for fixing what’s been wrong for so long.
If you can see beyond the Nutcracker sentimentality, you’ll learn quite a bit about problems such as the gender imbalance (male dancers being so coveted that they get away with terrible behavior because there are so few of them), racial imbalance (it’s only recently that dancers of color have been able to buy toe shoes and makeup that matches their skin), and the true price that girls and women’s feet, ankles, and legs must pay for the unnatural acts that create the perfect “line.”
Angyal also focuses on what the Black Lives Matter movement and the pandemic hath wrought: the necessity of radical change, starting with girls staying off pointe until they are 15 and the inclusion of non-whites at all levels of dance and management.
“If story ballets are to survive as more than museum pieces or reheated and re-embroidered replicas of something created in Russia in the 1800s, the distribution of power at the top has to become more equitable by both gender and race.”
“Dance educators must be willing to tell the whole story of the Great Men of ballet — the ugly truth of how they treated their dancers as well as the beauty of the choreography they created.”
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