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Off Balance: The Real World of Ballet [Paperback]

Suzanne Gordon

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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
By Paige Turner - Published on Amazon.com
Everything is NOT beautiful at the ballet.... This is a no-holds barred look at the dark side of ballet. If you thought "Little Girls in Pretty Boxes" was horrifying, this book is twice as shocking. Parents need to read this book in order to see what kind of life is in store for their child pursuing a career in dance. Ballet's stringent requirements for female dancers demand a breastless, hipless, ultra-thin body, which causes most dancers to become bulimic or anorexic. Gordon devotes an entire chapter to eating disorders rampant at ballet schools and in companies; it is shocking to note that many schools have weekly "weigh-in's", which only adds to the dancers' anguish if their weight goes up. Coupled with the physical demands of ballet, undernourished dancers are highly prone to injury and illness. Former dancers that Gordon interviewed are so crippled from injuries they can barely walk. The sacrifices to become a professional ballet dancer are enormous for both dancer and parents. Apart from principals, professional dancers make very little money, with no benefits or security after they've retired. The lifespan of a dancer is brief; many are already washed up and finished by their late twenties. Gordon admires the tenacity and dedication of the ballet dancers, but deplores their working conditions and the appalling demands ballet requires on their bodies. Gordon talks about the invisible partner, that of the ballet mother and how these women give up a normal life to give total support to the dancing child. She writes about the bitter rivalries between ballet mothers, which only increases their isolation and loneliness; it's not surprising these women become totally absorbed and obssessed with their children's success in dancing. With only a limited number of slots available in ballet companies, there is fierce competitiveness amongst students at the ballet academies, which is encouraged by the teachers. Movies like "Center Stage" and "The Turning Point" only scratch the surface of what life is really like as a ballet student or professional dancer; this books paints a more realistic portrait. Gordon interviewed hundreds of dancers for this book; however, the ballet world is such a closed world, most did not allow her to use their actual names, for fear that their comments would jeopardize their careers in dance. It is astonishing to discover how much power these ballet schools, teachers and choreographers have over their students; life in the studio causes dancers to have tunnel vision and renders them totally unprepared to cope in the real world once their all-too-short careers have ended. Although this book is out of print, do what you can to get a copy through amazon.com's services. You'll think twice before encouraging your child to become a dancer.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book tells the truth about racism in ballet 27 Mar 2003
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
This is a very honest look at what very few people know about the world of ballet. The physical and mental horrors that come with job are an additional slap in the face for anyone who hopes to become a ballet dancer...especially for the non-white ballet dancer. Its the only ballet book that has admitted the deep racism is exists in ballet. I use to love ballet but I had so many racist white teachers that didnt care for nonwhite dance students, that they helped to dash my hopes (and many many others like me). It can really break a young girls heart and its something that one never forgets. I hope that this will change one day.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truth we need to face and not turn away from 16 Dec 2010
By Jack Of Alltrades - Published on Amazon.com
I heard Ms. Gordon today on NPR and was appalled by the hostile attitude of the interviewer who put her on defense.

It seems no one wants to hear the truth about the people who are destroyed and cast aside by our culture---the soldiers, the dancers, the actors, the athletes---we want to see the fantasy, not the reality.

Dancing seems very much like modeling in that both are run by gays who have distorted our whole concept of the female form. We now demand women who are not normal, but are freakishly thin with the breasts of a woman twice their weight. This harms women. It kills them when they starve themselves to illness and death. It harms them when they seek surgery to reach this bizarre ideal.

If a healthy culture reveres and values what is normal and natural, then our culture is sick---very sick. Kudos to Ms. Gordon for daring to speak the truth.
5.0 out of 5 stars Everything has a price. 18 Jan 2011
By Mr. D. - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
This book exposes the sacrifices people make to bring the beautiful world of ballet to the world. Is it worth it? My answer to my own question: definitely yes. Read it and decide. Worth reading even if you are not a ballet fan.
5.0 out of 5 stars What every ballet dancer should know! 16 Jan 2011
By Dulce - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
Bought this out of print book after seeing a review of the movie "Swan Lake" that shows the truth and hardships pf being a ballet dancer. Have not finished it but have heard it is an excellent depiction of what being a ballet dancer really means.
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