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Adrienne Sharp's extraordinarily moving debut collection of stories showcases the tumultuous lives and loves of ballet legends and mingles them with her own equally driven, talented, fictional characters. In "Don Quixote," the middle-aged Balanchine's obsession with 18-year-old Suzanne Farrell spirals out of control. The notoriously difficult Nureyev partners an older Margot Fonteyn in "The Immortals: Margot + Rudolph 4 Ever," extending her career and creating the most phenomenal dance duo the ballet world had ever seen. In "Departure," Randall, a dancer dying of AIDS, reflects back on his colorful life as muse to a famous choreographer. And Randall's godson finds himself drawn to the world of dance despite the neglect he suffered at the hands of his famous dancer parents, in the story entitled "In the Wake." A young female dancer with the ABT takes a leave of absence after a failed love affair in "The Brahmins," but, finding she can't live without the ballet, she resigns herself to a life in the corps rather than in the spotlight reserved for principal dancers. Sharp, a former ballerina, brings a depth of knowledge to each story, with her descriptions of the heavy pancake makeup, the pointe shoes, and each perfect plié. In White Swan, Black Swan, dance reigns as a god to whom the short, arduous life of dancers is sacrificed for the beauty and fame offered only a few. In this first collection, Sharp has created sensual stories that resonate with bittersweet emotion, sweeping readers away like the liquid arms of the most impassioned Black Swan. (Summer 2001 Selection)
Affecting. ... Many of the stories are fictional imaginings of the lives of legendary dancers and
[Sharp's] prose is sturdy and her subject
matter ... is, well, addictive and universal in reach.
Breathtaking ... [Sharp] adroitly captures the elegance, magic, sexuality, obsession, ambition, sacrifice, vulnerability, and pain
that define dancers' lives.
White Swan, Black Swan
compels us to consider the troubled hearts and souls inside the agile bodies
that astonish us.
Luminous debut collection by a former dancer with the Harkness Ballet in New York: a somber tour of the "kingdom of the dance" where bodies, loves, and lives are sacrificed to an art that often seems more punishment than reward. Several of the pieces are about the same set of characters, while others are imaginative interpretations of the lives of such famous figures as Balanchine, Nureyev, Godunov, and Ashton. All are dark in mood, more like reports from a war zone-AIDS is pervasive, the women are anorexic, the men often drug addicted-than they are frothy tales of love and fame. The first, "Bugaku," concerns a couple who become increasingly estranged as the woman wants to continue dancing while her burned-out lover feels there is more to life than ballet. In the notable "Don Quixote," the renowned Balanchine recalls his obsession with prima ballerina Suzanne Farrell, whom he angrily fired for refusing to renounce her fellow dancer and lover, and in so doing nearly ruined his dance company. The title story uses the plot of Swan Lake to illuminate the dance and love triangle that develops when Lexa, who left Robbie-her dancer-lover and a drug addict-after he beat her up, only to return to find him having an affair with Sandra, the Queen of the Swans. Sandra is also the protagonist of "The Kingdom of the Shades," in which she describes her breakdown after the end of her affair with Robbie and confesses her reluctance to dance again. Others pieces detail Nureyev's incandescent partnership with Margot Fonteyn ("The Immortals: Margot Rudolf 4 Ever"); the recollections of a man, dying of AIDS, looking back over his life with a famous choreographer ("Departure"); and the regrets of ayoung woman who misses dancing, as well as being a part of the high caste of art that is ballet ("The Brahmins"). A well-accomplished if downbeat debut.
A stunningly lovely book about dance and dancers and their hard-won moments of beauty. . . . I can’t believe it’s a debut work–it’s brilliantly clear, dramatically swift, and knowingly conceived.”
Author of The Half-Life of Happiness
“A series of intimate portraits of the men and women who sacrifice their chances at ordinary happiness . . . as they strive to transform themselves into visions of near-celestial beauty and grace. . . . White Swan, Black Swan compels us to consider the troubled hearts and souls inside the agile bodies that astonish us with their ability to defy gravity and to exceed our wildest dreams of what the body can do.”
“In this breathtaking suite of short stories, Sharp, herself a dancer and ardent observer of the ballet world, adroitly captures the elegance, magic, sexuality, obsession, ambition, sacrifice, vulnerability, and pain that define dancers’ lives . . . . Most ballets are about thwarted longing and love, and so are Sharp’s masterfully choreographed dramas.”
–Booklist (starred and boxed review)