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Collusion: Memoir of a Young Girl and Her Ballet Master
     

Collusion: Memoir of a Young Girl and Her Ballet Master

by Evan Zimroth
 

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From the vantage point of "real life" (as dancers say), Collusion tells the story of a young girl's initiation into the disciplined, exalting world of classical ballet and into a secret love relationship with F., the ballet master whom she adored.

"Do you want to be a great dancer?" F. had asked her when she was twelve. She did. And so

Overview

From the vantage point of "real life" (as dancers say), Collusion tells the story of a young girl's initiation into the disciplined, exalting world of classical ballet and into a secret love relationship with F., the ballet master whom she adored.

"Do you want to be a great dancer?" F. had asked her when she was twelve. She did. And so Collusion tells of how she gave up ordinary life—family, boyfriends, hamburgers, homework, and pop music—for a life dedicated to the promise of artistry. At the center of that new life was always the figure of F.—ironic, moody, demanding, quixotically generous or withholding—who could control her with a sarcastic comment or the flash of his cane across her thigh, but also with the lyrical beauty of his classes and the vision of herself in a perfect arabesque. F. was the first man to partner her, and the first to teach her that love can come in strange forms: in the airborne lifts of Les Sylphides, in brilliant pirouettes, and in measured violence.

Collusion describes the secret life of ballet. It is a life in which "normal" values are reversed. Brutality is seen as a gift, fear as devotion, sadism (rightly, in this case) as love. Free of conventional moral judgments, Collusion tells of possession and surrender, of power and submission, of the bond between a young girl and an older man.

In spare, emotionally resonant prose, award-winning poet and novelist Evan Zimroth unfolds a mesmerizing story of artistic ambition, power, and love in an unforgettable memoir of adolescence. Collusion portrays a real relationship, one that society dares not speak of, and it does so with admirable honesty and sensitivity.

Editorial Reviews

Mary Grace Butler
Mothers, don't let your daughters grow up to be dancers. Unless you want them...to participate in a "gavotte of power and submission"....It's enough to make you think of Narcissus as a guy who didn't much care how he looked.
The New York Times Book Review
Library Journal
Award-winning novelist and poet Zimroth (Gangsters, LJ 9/15/96) presents a memoir of her three years of intensive ballet training--beginning at age 12--under the critical eye of her teacher, "F." Zimroth analyzes an unhealthy master-pupil relationship characterized by sadomasochism, violence, eroticism, discipline, and love. Zimroth's home and school life receded, and her world became the circumscribed space of the dance studio, where she committed herself to becoming a great dancer under the demanding tutelage of "F." Zimroth attempts to expose a secret world of ballet, but even with distance from her adolescent years, she is still ambivalent about her early and haunting experiences. Because her story does not mirror that of most ballet students, and because she has not yet resolved her interpretation of events, readers may find the book painfully sensitive, but elusive and annoying, with few personal or far-reaching insights. Not recommended.--Joan Stahl, Natl. Museum of American Art, Washington, DC
Kirkus Reviews
An attempt to publicly exorcise personal demons, this should have remained private—not because the book shocks, but because it fails to inform or persuade a reader. Zimroth (Gangsters, 1996, winner of the National Jewish Book Award) began serious ballet training at age 12. For three years, she was locked in an intense, unhealthy relationship with a much older male ballet instructor whom she identifies only as "F." No particular frame of reference is given for her cloistered ballet world—Zimroth merely explains that for her the rest of the world ceased to exist when she began studying with F. Perhaps the desert of detail comes partly in response to legal considerations. Yet not even balletomanes, lacking knowledge of Zimrothns geographic locale, the relevant decade, etc., will be able to make rudimentary connections. As for the relationship itself, it's hard to tell from the writing just what was going on. While it's clear, for instance, that F hit his students (Zimroth included) with a cane when giving corrections in class, this is not so unusual according to ballet's traditions. And the rest of what happened between a domineering teacher and a fawning, dependent student sounds like the fevered imagination of adolescence: "At barely 13, I enjoyed the subtle eroticism of power, the delicate interplay of threat and surrender." An opening "Prelude," recounting the semi-violent loss of Zimroth's virginity some years later (she feels it echoed her ballet experience) only serves the interests of soap opera. Zimroth wants her ordeal with F. to be considered typical of apprenticeships with revered and intimidating ballet teachers who impart valuable gifts. Yet a morebalanced narrator would emphasize the gifts—not how delicious the intimidation was. Zimroth's stated aim is not to purge herself of this experience, nor to warn others away from cruel ballet masters. Rather, she confides, damningly, she's written these stories so that she can "dwell on them forever."

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780060187866
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
01/01/1999
Edition description:
1 ED
Pages:
240
Product dimensions:
5.83(w) x 8.59(h) x 0.96(d)

What People are Saying About This

Jay Parini
This strange, arresting memoir startled me from the outset, and it held me in thrall. Collusion is a haunting tale of apprenticeship and its limits, of discipline as love. With refreshing honesty, Zimroth explores the peculiar, ill-understood bond of eroticism that obtains between master and pupil. In doing so, she carries us to unexpected places. I could not stop reading her book, nor will any reader attracted to that alluring zone where power and love intermingle.

Meet the Author

Evan Zimroth is a writer whose first novel, Gangster, won the National Jewish Book Award 1996. She has also published two collections of poetry. She lives in New York City with her two daughters.

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