cover image WHITE SWAN, BLACK SWAN: Stories


Adrienne Sharp, Author . Random $21.95 (240p) ISBN 978-0-375-50420-4

The dance world becomes palpably real in this accomplished debut collection by Sharp, a former member of the Harkness Ballet of New York, as she explores both the exultation and the physical and emotional stresses of professional ballet. The dancers in her 12 tales are all grace and confidence in the spotlight, but they balance precariously when thrust back into the real world. In the title story, Robbie Perez is torn between two dancers: his estranged wife, Lexa, and his new teenage partner on and off the stage, Sandra (who reappears in later stories). Like many ballet stars, Robbie feeds his dysfunction with drugs, hoping to recapture the fantasy of performance, where "all the girls were princesses." Dance dropout Katherine is the disillusioned protagonist of "Wili" and "The Brahmins." In the latter, she shows her documentary of young dancers, to a friend, who comments, "I think that is the weirdest collection of little freaks I have ever seen." Katherine doesn't agree; to her, these girls are "like tiny little disciples." "The Immortals: Margot + Rudolf 4 Ever" is a dramatic account of the long relationship between '60s and '70s superstars Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev. Other real-life stars jeté in and out of the stories, allowing the collection to resonate with realism for readers who recognize the first-name references. While a knowledge of ballet is necessary for full appreciation, Sharp adroitly develops parallels between classic ballets such as Swan Lake and the personal dramas that play out behind the scenes. Agent, Sandra Dijkstra. (June 26)

Forecast:Balletomanes will be attracted by this book's evocative cover. Those who were shocked to read Gelsey Kirkland's and Suki Schorer's memoirs a decade ago are the audience for this imaginative collection, which suggests that drug addiction, anorexia and burnout are still part of the ballet scene.