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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Books: Laura Jacobs, Toni Bentley

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Neither of these two volumes is directly dance related, but the dance critic Laura Jacobs and author/dancer Toni Bentley have new books out. The Jacobs book, "Women About Town," is fiction; the Bentley book, "Sisters of Salome," celebrates the joys of stripping and reviews the history of same. Both are available from our site sponsor.

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I'll bet "The Joys of Stripping" would sell more copies than "Sisters of Salome." You have a future in publishing, dirac, thanks for this.

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Bentley's first chapter includes a fascinating anecdote about Balanchine trotting off to a pretentious Paris strip club after City Ballet performances. And she makes an interesting comparison between dancing and stripping. For my money, her own story is sad and -- not to be unkind -- a little pathetic. But she can write!

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kfw, Iwasn't actually planning to say this, but since you mention it I must admit to being sort of stunned when I read that. I guess it may be "empowering" to some women to have the happy opportunity to strip for money in front of a gaggle of leering or indifferent men, but I don't think that I would find the experience that inspiring, speaking for myself. It is true that many women in our society have had to exploit their physical appeal in one way or another in order to get ahead, or just survive -- but that hardly indicates an expression of feminine power, rather the reverse, I should think. (Although it does offer a potential new slogan for feminists -- ''Girls -- you don't have to head a Fortune 500 company or run for the Senate to be empowered. Just strip naked for a bunch of tipsy salesmen!")



I was actually sorry to read that about Balanchine -- unless he was going to check for any novel theatrical effects, which I doubt. Richard Feynman, not a man noted for feminist sentiments, used to visit one regularly, too.

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Here's a link to a New York Times review of Toni Bentley's book:




and another review:




Also Toni Bentley has her own site there:




There were some articles in "Les Saisons de la Danse" around 1993-1994 about Colette's "dancing" career (by Olivier Marmin- he managed to write interesting articles about really odd topics, like "dance in the comic books series *Alix*" or "dance and vampire stories" (that was before the Dracula ballet craze). There's a bit of information about her "music-hall career" on the following page:


Those performing episodes, as well as her "scandalous" love life (her complicated mariage with the writer Willy, who published her books with his name and their various "menages a trois", her liaisons with the marquise de Belboeuf and later with her stepson Bertrand de Jouvenel who was 30 years younger than her, and so on) were quite famous, but now she is better known for her

novels, and I doubt that she would have had national funerals if she had only done some stripping...


About Balanchine and the Crazy Horse (argh!), well, I guess even geniuses can have moments of really, really bad taste...

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  • 3 weeks later...
Guest tempusfugit

Toni Bentley's own story is "pathetic"? one of the best, most incisive writers on dance, who wrote the brilliant Winter Season at age 22 or so, and also provided us with the fascinating Costumes by Karinska? (No, I'm not employed by Bentley's publishers. lol) what would be "pathetic", her honesty on the subject of ballet's vicissitudes? and is it OKAY that Balanchine enjoyed a strip club? Wagner was anti-Semitic; Picasso hardly treated women well. the foibles and imperfections of artists --outside their art -- are legion. we're lucky that geniuses such as Balanchine-- or Picasso, or Wagner-- USUALLY spared us their bad taste within their work. :-)

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tempusfugit, I think kfw didn't mean "pathetic" to refer Bentley's career, or Bentley herself, or any of her books -- just to her anecdote about her own Adventures in Stripping.


As to whether it was okay for Balanchine to go to a strip club -- well, I agree with you that there are sins far, far worse. On the other hand, I admit that I suffer an inward wince. It's not a terrible thing to do by any means, it's just not in the best of taste, IMO.

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dirac, thanks for explaining.


tempusfugit, I wasn't knocking Balanchine. I don't think going to a strip club is either a good thing, or the worst thing in the world.


As for Toni Bentley, I loved "Winter "Season" the first time I read it and I loved it the second time I read it. And I've been meaning to buy "Costumes for Karinska" for years. I just think it's sad that she felt driven to experience such power over men (maybe some archetypal urges ought to be rejected), and to seek it by stripping. I think it's especially sad given that she was already a Balanchine dancer, and as such already had a great deal of sensual power. I myself half fell in love with her just reading "Winter Season."

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Guest tempusfugit

dirac, Ursula Le Guin in one of her essays refers to one of her own novels, lol, as "populated exclusively by exquisitely boring Archetypes." Yes.......................

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Guest Ed Waffle

dirac wrote:


"I guess it may be "empowering" to some women to have the happy opportunity to strip for money in front of a gaggle of leering or indifferent men, but I don't think that I would find the experience that inspiring, speaking for myself."


For an alternative view take a look at


Strip City: A Stripper's Farewell Journey Across America

by Lily Burana


Like Bentley (who is one of my favorites ) Burana is a real writer. This is her first book but she has written for the "Village Voice", the "New York Times Book Review" and other mainstream publications.


She is also a former stripper who took a sentimental journey to some of the clubs where she had worked in the past--she was about to get married and wanted to either get stripping or (although she doesn't make this obvious) her fiance out of her system.


Available from Amazon.com by using the ad at the top of this page.

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