‣ What were some of the principal motives for writing this memoir and why do you feel that now is the time to share it with the world?
I really did not have a motive when I began writing this book. It began as a way to cement memories and thoughts about my dancing life that I feared I would lose if I kept them only in my head.
As I wrote the early bits of the book, the memories, recollections, and fragments of episodes came crashing at me with so much speed and strength that I just kept writing. Pretty soon, it seemed like a neat idea to string them together in a somewhat logical way, though I did not at all want to turn it into a straight-up, chronological telling of “The Story of My Life.” I wanted it to be more of a collage, or a quilt, a patchwork of glimpses into the life of any dancer, that when seen (or read) as a whole would illuminate to some degree what it means to live with dance as the core of who you are.
As for ‘why now,’ the reason it’s coming out now is because I finally got a publisher and this is the date they decided to release it! I thought I had ‘finished’ the book a few years ago, but after several editors read it and gave me significant feedback, I ended up making many amendments, additions and subtractions, so the version that is about to greet the world didn’t coalesce until about one year ago.
Having said that, however, I do think that this is a really opportune moment for people to read Being a Ballerina. There has been a lot of relatively negative and melodramatic depiction of ballet in popular culture over the past few years, and while I am happy for ballet to be on the national radar, I don’t feel any of it is honest about what it really, really really means to be a dancer. To exist as a dancer. I hope my book does express that. Not the stereotypical bloody-toes-and-bruised-ego type of existence, but the soul of the life.
‣ Being from the same generation as you, having both grown up in New York City and attended SAB, there is so much that I could relate to and memories I could recall while reading your essays. Did you have an intended audience in mind while developing the content of the book?
No, I really didn’t, much to the distress of every agent, editor and potential publisher I approached! The first question they ask is “Who’s your audience? Who can I market this to?”
And you’re really not allowed to say, “Everyone!”
I may be naive, but I do think most anyone who is human would find the concept of feeling a passion in your core, so strong that you can’t ignore it, and the gradually dawning thrill of walking alongside it through life, quite fascinating.
But in practical terms, the most likely audience will be other dancers, students and professionals and recreational dancers, audience members.
I really hope I can reach artists in other forms, too, though. I have gotten amazing feedback from other writers and visual artists who’ve read early copies and say they feel incredible synchronicity with the episodes and feelings I describe as a dancer.
I would be over the moon if the book would be recognized as a work of literature, too, on the merits of the writing itself, not merely as a dance book.