rachelmanija: (Books: old)
rachelmanija ([personal profile] rachelmanija) wrote2017-08-21 12:40 pm

Winter Season: A Dancer's Journal and The Surrender, by Toni Bentley

I am a dancer in the New York City Ballet. I wrote the pages that follow during one ballet season. I began on November 21, 1980, and finished on February 15, 1981. I was lonely; I was sad. I had decided to be alone, but I had never decided to be lonely. I started writing on a yellow pad. I wrote, and I smoked. Every page was covered with a film of smoke.

If you like that, you will like this book. It's one of those slim but pithy volumes that precisely captures a time, a place, and a state of mind.

I've always had a fascination with ballet, ever since my second-grade teacher offered a trip to see the Nutcracker Suite (it was at least ten years before I realized that the second word was not "sweet") to her top three students. I had no idea what that was, other than that it was clearly desirable, so I went all-out to make sure that I'd get the prize. I was sufficiently enchanted with The Nutcracker and the general air of specialness surrounding the entire experience that I begged my parents for ballet lessons, at which I lasted something like three sessions. I don't recall the exact problem, but based on my age I'm guessing that there was too much standing around.

After that I confined myself to reading ballet books, which was more fun that actually doing it. Had I tried when I was older, I might have stuck with it for longer. Based on Bentley book and everything else I've read about ballet dancing, it has an austere, stoic, boot camp, push your limits atmosphere that would have really appealed to me if I'd been three to five years older. And then I would have gotten my heart broken, because I am not built to be a ballerina.

Winter Season beautifully depicts the illusion shown to the audience and the reality experienced by the dancers, and how the dancers live the illusion as well. It's got all the fascinating details of any good backstage memoir, without bitterness or cynicism. Even as it ground down her body, Bentley never stopped loving ballet; she seems to feel that she was lucky to have the chance to live the dream, just for the opportunity to spend a few minutes every day being the perfect expression of her body and the choreographer's art.

Winter Season: A Dancer's Journal, with a new preface

And I will place the next bit under a cut in case you just want to read about Winter Season. As opposed to ass.

...and if you read my review of her next memoir, The Surrender, you will find how after she left the ballet, she found another way to experience her ass body.

I SWEAR, Winter Season is really well-written and lovely and controlled. I guess after all that control, maybe she needed to write one of the most bizarre books I have ever read - a work which stands out, after nearly forty years of reading the weirdest shit I could lay my hands on and also after writing plenty of freaky erotica myself, as the most let's just say memorable piece of sex writing I have ever read. And that includes stuff like Annihilated By A Gay Minotaur, The Human Cow Experience 2 - The Main Event (Fantasy Farms) and Pounded In The Butt By The Fact That It Took Less Time For This Book To Be Written And Published Than The Entire Length Of Tony Scarymoochy's Term As White House Communications Director.

This amazing book, I recently discovered, was made into a play which prompted this equally amazing bit from a stunned reviewer:

"On future anal sex: ‘I never let anyone else into my sacred backyard… what was once hallowed ground, now a tunnel of despair… filled with ghosts.’

HOT TIP FOR ASPIRING PLAYWRIGHTS: Never describe your asshole as a tunnel of despair filled with ghosts.

Finally, leaving us on an inspiring upbeat note, Toni tells us, ‘I had taken my ass back. He doesn’t live there any more. I live there now.’"

Yeah. Just as well I didn't persevere with the ballet lessons.
luzula: a Luzula pilosa, or hairy wood-rush (Default)

[personal profile] luzula 2017-08-22 06:31 pm (UTC)(link)
Thank you for this post, it has brightened my day considerably!