Dance, Thoughts
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{Dancing Through It} Review

I continue my Ballet book reviews with Jenifer Ringer’s recent memoir {Dancing Through It}, published in February 2014.

Past reviews: {Winter Season} & {Bunheads}

Ringer stopped at a local Raleigh bookstore (Quail Ridge) on her book tour this past Spring. Unfortunately, I was teaching that evening, but a wonderful patron of Carolina Ballet gave me a signed copy. Thank you Jori! Below is its summary:

 

Jenifer Ringer's "Dancing Through It"

Jenifer Ringer’s “Dancing Through It”

In her charming and self-effacing voice, Jenifer Ringer covers the highs and lows of what it’s like to make it to the top in the exclusive, competitive ballet world. From the heart-pounding moments waiting in the wings before a performance to appearing on Oprah to discuss weight and body image among dancers, Dancing Through It is moving and revelatory.

Ringer takes us inside the dancer’s world, detailing a typical day, performance preparation, and the extraordinary pressures that these athletes face. She unflinchingly describes her personal struggles with eating disorders and body image, and shares how her faith helped her to heal and triumph over these challenges.

 

Jenifer Ringer’s recent memoir brings to light many points in which dancers struggle with through in their careers: self-confidence, body image and faith.

At the start of the narrative, Ringer discusses her trouble embracing her confidence and how the loss of it led to a pause in her professional career and a downward spiral of depression. (It was quite hard to read her issues with food.) As dancers, the focus on any negative comments automatically overrides any positive ones – it’s the nature of the beast. Fortunately, Ringer overcomes her criticism and becomes the gorgeous dancer that she was. (She retired from the stage this past winter. WSJ Retirement Review.) Here is a quote from her closing pages:

“I think maybe God was helping me to remember that I don’t need to be perfect. I don’t need to prove anything to anyone. I can just dance – yes, I have to, and want to, put the work into it and do my best, but at the end of the day, once I’m on stage, the performance is about just dancing.” P. 251

Ringer confesses that dancers are incredibly self-centered. We become introverted, needing time to warm-up our bodies, rehearse our steps, analyze our artistry, apply our stage makeup, prepare our Pointe shoes, get into our character, and the list continues. Ringer addresses these issues and often refers to her faith in God as an exchange. Although I am of Catholic upbringing and am still religious, I find her repeated mentions of God to be extreme. No matter how religious one might be, I find that it is best kept internal letting one’s faith shine through their actions.

One last point I wanted to mention in my review was Ringer’s critique by Alistair Macauley (New York Times writer) in 2010 about her performance in “The Nutcracker.” Alistair Macauley wrote:

“Jenifer Ringer, as the Sugar Plum Fairy, looked as if she’d eaten one Sugar Plum too many.”

Ringer talks candidly in her book about this stinging critique of her weight and shows how it ignited a public dialogue about ballet and weight. Below is a video of her Today show response.

 

My Favorite Quotes

“My world was narrowing to focus largely on City Ballet alone. Sometimes after the performance I would go out to dinner with my company friends, but much of the time I was just too tired and looked forward to the solitude of my apartment.” P. 78

For a ballet career “I would be sacrificing my body, willingly, for the approval of whoever happened to be watching, whether it be a ballet master or an audience. And pushing through pain or ‘sucking it up’ and hiding feelings of tiredness or discomfort was expected and often rewarded. Showing pain or exhaustion was seen as a weakness, and there were plenty of other dancers to take your place if you were not strong enough to handle the workload.” P. 81

“To help me remember, I write something on the bottom of the shoe, such as the first letter of the ballet I’ll be dancing.” P. 169

“With enough repetition, the music is inevitably linked by some mysterious connection to our muscle memory so that eventually, we don’t have to think about the steps. Our bodies know what to do, leaving our brains free to flight to our imaginations in performance.” P. 170

***

Related Posts

My View on “Bunheads”

My View on “Winter Season”

My View on “Breaking Pointe”

My View on “city.ballet.”

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6 Comments

  1. Pingback: My View on “Winter Season” | Twirling Terpsichorean

  2. Pingback: My View on “Bunheads.” | Twirling Terpsichorean

  3. Pingback: My View on “city.ballet.” | Twirling Terpsichorean

  4. Pingback: My View on “Breaking Pointe” | Twirling Terpsichorean

  5. Pingback: My View on “Strickly Ballet” | Twirling Terpsichorean

  6. Pingback: 2-in-1: June & May Favorites…Combined! – notafraidtoshine

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