Pros: Contains advice from some impressively well-known dancers and choreographers.
Cons: The information is often contradictory, which can be confusing for those looking for guidance.
Lyndsey Winship, dance critic for the Evening Standard, has teamed up with twenty five experts in the dance industry to write Being a Dancer. Ballerinas Darcey Bussell and Lauren Cuthbertson, hip hop dancer Kenrick ‘H2O’ Sandy, and big name choreographers Maxine Doyle (Punchdrunk) and Hofesh Shechter have all contributed to this book that aims to answer the most pertinent questions about the practicalities of a career in dance.
Having such a wealth of experience behind it makes this book an invaluable resource for aspiring dancers, and a fascinating read for those of us who simply have an interest in dance. Each of the contributors has such an incredible passion for dance; the enthusiasm seems to leap off the page. This undoubtedly makes it an inspiring read for dancers.
The book is organised into topics, such as: Training, The Body, On Stage etc. These sections are subdivided into questions, which have been put to the contributors, followed by each of their answers. On the one hand, it is interesting to hear each of their opinions and answers; however, the diversity in the answers can make it hard to derive a clear answer to the question. This can make the book a little confusing for those turning to it for guidance. For example, one section asks when you should start learning to dance. The answers range from three to thirteen for ballet dancers, with an even wider range of answers for other types of dance. However, the multitude of answers and opinions means dancers have a lot of advice to choose from and can figure out which works best for them individually.
The way the book is laid out makes it very accessible and easy to navigate. The stories and anecdotes, as well as the array of different voices, make it engaging enough to read straight through; yet it is organised effectively into bite-sized chunks, which means it also serves well as a book to dip in and out of when looking for answers to specific questions.
Being a Dancer paints a very welcoming picture of dance as a career, full of positive stories. For example, there are stories of teenagers being told they don’t have the right body a few years before being signed by The Royal Ballet. All the advice given is very supportive and encouraging, which, for a young dancer who may be struggling or feeling unsure, would provide excellent motivation.
The book also contains answers to very practical questions such as what to wear to auditions, how to deal with bad reviews and how to balance dance work with other work to pay the rent. This makes it a useful guide to dancers at any stage of their career.
Overall, Being a Dancer is an accessible and interesting book, exploring what it means to be a dancer. The big names behind it lend it a certain authority. Have you ever wanted to know what they feed the ballerinas at The Royal Ballet School? All that and much more can be found in this extensive guide.
Author: Lyndsey Winship
Publisher: Nick Hern Books
Web Link: https://www.nickhernbooks.co.uk/Book/1765/Being-a-Dancer.html
Publication Date: 16 July 2015, £9.99 paperback.
ISBN: 978 1 84842 462 3