Friday, December 23, 2011

Bunheads, by Sophie Flack (fiction) - dance, dream, stretch, strain, strive, dance

If you sleep under a ballerina blanket,
practice second position waiting for the schoolbus,
live and breathe ballet - then you're probably a bunhead.

On this Fun Friday, we catch up with 19-year-old Hannah, who's living the dream of many a young girl, dancing every night (and weekend matinees) in pointe shoes and tutus, a professional ballet dancer while still in her teens.

But those cute little grade-schoolers can't know the realities of being a corps de ballet dancer - sewing yourself into your shoes before every performance, dieting constantly, plagued by bunions and muscle strains, worrying about being promoted to soloist or being cut from the company roster.

Listen to the author talk about her recent experiences in the corps de ballet and you'll know that Hannah's story may be fiction, but it's also very true.

Read Bunheads along with Audition (review) for a deep journey into the world of teen professional ballet dancers - you'll never look at those dancing Snowflakes in The Nutcracker quite the same way again.

Book info: Bunheads / Sophie Flack. Poppy Books, 2011. [author's website] [author interview] [publisher site]

Recommendation: Hannah is a ballet dancer, not a ballerina – not the star…yet. Moving to New York at age 14, she’s danced with the Manhattan Ballet Company for 5 years, doing homework between performances, stretching tired muscles and massaging her bunions after twice-daily practices, striving for perfect technique and lithe flexibility.

When the calendar turns to fall, it’s time to begin rehearsing The Nutcracker. A holiday favorite of audiences from Thanksgiving to New Year, it’s merely part of the routine for the dancers who perform over 50 different ballets in the Company’s repertoire.

Excitement builds as the director choreographs a new ballet for the Company and selects dancers for each piece. Hannah is thrilled to become Lottie’s understudy, practicing the lead ballerina’s dances as her alternate, less-thrilled to see that Zoe is also chosen as Lottie’s understudy. Competition is an integral part of Company life; friendships are often optional.

Sometimes she escapes the endless cycle of studio to apartment to studio by visiting her cousin’s restaurant, journal in hand. A chance meeting with singer-songwriter Jacob after his guitar performance there shakes up Hannah’s perfectly orchestrated life – could she really find time for a relationship?

When Lottie is hurt and Hannah suddenly steps into the spotlight, will her performance get her promoted to soloist? Can her body cope with the demands to be ever slimmer and stronger? How much of real life is Hannah willing to sacrifice to remain a dancer?

Personal dreams and performance realities dance their erratic and realistic duet in this well-crafted debut novel, as the author’s own experiences as a professional ballet dancer provide behind-the-scenes details. (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy courtesy of the publisher.

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