Dance history nerds, listen up!
Deirdre Kelly’s “Ballerina: Sex, Scandal and Suffering Behind the Symbol of Perfection” is a must. Kelly richly details the vapid socioeconomic struggle of ballerinas from the “courtesans” performing on stage for patrons (and in the bedrooms of Parisian elite) to the fight for fair wages and working conditions in companies like New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, and National Ballet of Canada.
Kelly reaches far back in time to uncover the prima ballerinas (beyond Elssler, Cerrito, & Taglioni); she covers the development of ballet technique from Louis XIV and the Paris Opera within the context of society. Kelly travels from France to Russia to Italy in her dialogue before landing in the U.S., Canada, and Australia to augment the current struggles of dancers.
Kelly writes with passion; she advocates for the unheard voices of many a ballerina. Kelly doesn’t hesitate to offer biting evaluations of some of the world’s leading choreographers and artistic directors but with the picture she paints (from her detailed historiography), it becomes clear that the ballerina’s struggle demands justice.
Kelly keeps it real.