Being a Ballerina: The Power and Perfection of a Dancing Life
by Gavin Larsen
University Press of Florida

"...this was it: the 16-year-old’s last chance to get serious... make something of her dancing potential or just coast along in the sea of mediocrity."

According to the author, "There are dancers, and there are ballerinas." And a dancer knows whether or not the line has yet been crossed. What did it take for Larsen to get to that point at the age of sixteen? There were eight years of regular classes, daily practice at the barre and at home, memorizing the moves mentally and physically, and striving for excellence while on stage at the center of attention. Lastly, there was a fierce resolve to be nothing less.

Like with any athlete, a physical price must be paid: painful, wrapped toes after hours of work; cold muscles warmed, then cool again after waiting, only to be warmed quickly once more when the music starts, and the leg warmers are sent flying to the sidelines. Watching how others coped, Larsen learned how to adapt, do what was necessary, and maintain a persistent expectation of improvement. Later, she had to adjust once age—or disability in her case—decreed that the ballerina must return to simply being a dancer.

This memoir is an amazing journey through an athlete's progress, success, and career's end. Larsen has a gift for recall that recreates the drama of her emotional stops along the way. The reader feels the painful shoes, shares the development of coping skills, thrills at the high points of celebrity, achieves the personal goals, and saddens even before the author herself realizes she is no longer a ballerina. Much wiser now, readers sadly share the bouquet of roses vicariously and kneel in spirit to the thunderous acclaim of a clapping audience. As an author, Larsen has a gift of storytelling that has extended the market for her book to include ballet students, ballerina fans and family, and any active young person with serious goals.

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