Tag Archive | theater

Bunheads, by Sophie Flack (book review) – dance, dream, stretch, strain, strive, dance

book cover of Bunheads by Sophie FlackIf you sleep under a ballerina blanket,
practice second position waiting for the schoolbus,
live and breathe ballet – then you’re probably a bunhead.

On this Fun Friday, we catch up with 19-year-old Hannah, who’s living the dream of many a young girl, dancing every night (and weekend matinees) in pointe shoes and tutus, a professional ballet dancer while still in her teens.

But those cute little grade-schoolers can’t know the realities of being a corps de ballet dancer – sewing yourself into your shoes before every performance, dieting constantly, plagued by bunions and muscle strains, worrying about being promoted to soloist or being cut from the company roster.

Listen to the author talk about her recent experiences in the corps de ballet and you’ll know that Hannah’s story may be fiction, but it’s also very true.

Read Bunheads along with Audition (review) for a deep journey into the world of teen professional ballet dancers – you’ll never look at those dancing Snowflakes in The Nutcracker quite the same way again.

Book info: Bunheads / Sophie Flack. Poppy Books, 2011. [author’s website] [author interview] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My booktalk: Hannah is a ballet dancer, not a ballerina – not the star…yet. Moving to New York at age 14, she’s danced with the Manhattan Ballet Company for 5 years, doing homework between performances, stretching tired muscles and massaging her bunions after twice-daily practices, striving for perfect technique and lithe flexibility.

When the calendar turns to fall, it’s time to begin rehearsing The Nutcracker. A holiday favorite of audiences from Thanksgiving to New Year, it’s merely part of the routine for the dancers who perform over 50 different ballets in the Company’s repertoire.

Excitement builds as the director choreographs a new ballet for the Company and selects dancers for each piece. Hannah is thrilled to become Lottie’s understudy, practicing the lead ballerina’s dances as her alternate, less-thrilled to see that Zoe is also chosen as Lottie’s understudy. Competition is an integral part of Company life; friendships are often optional.

Sometimes she escapes the endless cycle of studio to apartment to studio by visiting her cousin’s restaurant, journal in hand. A chance meeting with singer-songwriter Jacob after his guitar performance there shakes up Hannah’s perfectly orchestrated life – could she really find time for a relationship?

When Lottie is hurt and Hannah suddenly steps into the spotlight, will her performance get her promoted to soloist? Can her body cope with the demands to be ever slimmer and stronger? How much of real life is Hannah willing to sacrifice to remain a dancer?

Personal dreams and performance realities dance their erratic and realistic duet in this well-crafted debut novel, as the author’s own experiences as a professional ballet dancer provide behind-the-scenes details. (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

Withering Tights, by Louise Rennison (fiction) – theater camp, boys, and more drama

Performing arts school!
Taught by real actresses and dancers!
Far in northern England, on the Yorkshire dales

It’s Fun Friday, as Tallulah searches for her time in the spotlight, on stage, away from her silly little brother. She’s off to Dother Hall and a chance to audition at the end of summer for a permanent spot at the school.

Such *dramatic* drama instructors… and weird improv exercises… and strange interpretive dance classes. How is it that she suddenly can’t dance or sing or act?

Throw in a brooding mother owl, the nearby boys’ school, various odd villagers, worries about casting for Dother’s all-girl version of Wuthering Heights, and Tallulah’s concern that her legs will keep growing (and the interesting parts never will), and you can see why Georgia’s cousin (as in the hilarious “Confessions of Georgia Nicolson” series) is a just trifle worried about passing her audition.

So what will Tallulah be doing on stage next? Watch for book 2, A Midsummer Tights Dream, due out in February 2012.

Book info: Withering Tights (Misadventures of Tallulah Casey #1) / Louise Rennison. HarperTeen, 2011 [author’s website] [publisher site] [book trailer]

Recommendation: Tallulah knows that summer drama school will be better than bug sandwiches with her crazy little brother. With her parents overseas pursuing their own interests, it’s certainly time for her to dance and act in Yorkshire. Her just-older cousin Georgia promises to write with advice about boys – surely, there are boys nearby…

Rooming in the village with the wacky Dobbins family (they’re keen on squirrels), she and Vaisey (staying with the pubowner’s family) walk past millions of sheep on their way to Dother Hall, where improvisation and dance and art and the rest of the students live.

The full-time girls perform strange plays with confusing dialogue, the handyman plays heavy metal music in the workshop, and the instructors tell the girls to act without any scripts. Their modern version of Wuthering Heights is, um, uh, different.

Things start looking up when the boys from Woolfe Hall invite Tallulah and friends to the cinema. The school director says it will help them look through the inner darkness; the girls just want to be with the boys.

A local band is performing at Dother so they can get a live recording – and village badboy Cain is the lead singer. How many hearts will he break over the summer? If he’d just stop harassing the owl nest and killing foxes…

Will Tallulah pass her auditions to become a permanent student at Dother Hall if she can’t tap dance or sing? Can a knobby-knees girl who’s waiting for the rest of her body to grow up to match her 14-year-old heart find happiness on stage? Is a first kiss too much to ask of this summer?

More laugh-out-loud fun from the author of the Confessions of Georgia Nicholson series, who brings readers along on Tallulah’s bumpy ride through a summer that’s much more dramatic than she dreamed it could be. (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Wonderland (fiction)

How much of the past stains our future forever?
Can having one friend make up for the scorn of everyone else?
Why does Stella leave Jude alone so often?

Jude feels like a nothing, an outcast, a scholarship kid at the snooty private high school in her teeny British town. No one would believe that she has an audition at a London drama academy

When her best friend Stella returns, then Jude can escape this fishbowl where everyone knows your past. Stella’s got to come back, doesn’t she?

A gripping World Wednesday story for readers who won’t shy away from Stella’s reckless behavior or Jude’s struggle to escape her depression.

Book info: Wonderland / Joanna Nadin. Candlewick, 2011. [author’s website] [publisher site] [fan-created book trailer]

Recommendation: Stella is so much cooler than Jude, always showing up in her life just when Jude despairs of escaping her small British coastal town, the cliques at her high school, the woeful expression on her widowed dad’s face.

Jude just couldn’t get through this summer – tourists asking directions at their shop, the popular kids ignoring her at the beach, little brother Alfie’s incessant questions – without Stella’s flippant remarks, crazy fashion sense, and disdain for what people think about her. Stella had better not do one of her disappearing acts this time, though.

And the secret, in Jude’s pocket, the audition invitation from a London theater school… acting is all that she wants to do, just like her Mum, her beautiful, talented, dead mother.

As Stella’s choices get more reckless, Jude is pulled along on crazy adventures all summer. The audition goes by in a blur, the popular crowd is out to get them both, and Jude’s dad can’t quite let her go. If she had to, could Jude leave town alone? Would Stella stay with her always?

Deep secrets and worries with long memories fill this story for very mature readers, which begins with a car going off a cliff toward the sea…
(One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy courtesy of the publisher.