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First Love

Adrienne Sharp, Author
Adrienne Sharp, Author . Riverhead $23.95 (341p) ISBN 978-1-57322-310-2
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Former ballerina Sharp presents a sentimental portrait of two ballet dancers, Sandra Ellis and Adam LaSalle, in her debut novel (after her collection White Swan, Black Swan ). Best friends since the age of 15, Sandra and Adam become lovers in their 20s, by which point Adam has left Balanchine's New York City Ballet for starring roles with Baryshnikov's American Ballet Theater, while Sandra remains a loyal member of the corps. Sharp frames the novel, set in the '80s, with the fairy tale of "Sleeping Beauty," a story that Balanchine had in reality always wanted to choreograph but never fully did. Here, though, Sandra serves as the inspiration for Balanchine's staging of the tale: she catches his eye because of the passion Adam has awoken, and Balanchine plucks her from the corps to transform her into a principal dancer in the epic. But Sandra struggles to choose between her relationship with Adam and the total commitment and sacrifice she believes Balanchine requires. The point of view shifts between each corner of this triangle, often dragging with Adam and Sandra's inner monologues but sparkling with Balanchine's richly reimagined story. Sharp offers a detailed insider view of the ballet world, but her love story, though intelligently written, can mire in the maudlin. (July)

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