BOOKS

The Everyday Dancer

Deborah Bull
2011

The Everyday DancerThe Everyday Dancer is a new and honest account of the business of dancing from a writer with first hand experience of the profession. Structured around the daily schedule, The Everyday Dancer goes behind the velvet curtain, the gilt and the glamour to uncover the everyday realities of a career in dance. Starting out with the obligatory daily 'class', the book progresses through the repetition of rehearsals, the excitement of creating new work, the nervous tension of the half hour call, the pressures of performance and the anti-climax of curtain down.

Through this vivid portrait of a dancer's every day, Deborah Bull reveals the arc of a dancer's life: from the seven-year-old's very first ballet class, through training, to company life, up through the ranks from corps de ballet to principal and then, not thirty years after it all began, to retirement and the inevitable sense of loss that comes with saying goodbye to your childhood dreams.

A unique perspective from behind the footlights, The Everyday Dancer is a vibrant and compelling picture of a life in the day of a dancer.

'So forget Degas and his pastel picture-book perfection. This is the snapshot you will see, if you peep into the window as class at the Royal Opera House is about to start: no rococo gilt, no wooden floors, and no tulle skirts, but a late twentieth-century architect's sparse vision of a calm, austere landscape marred – or perhaps improved? – by brightly coloured bodies, positioned at regular intervals around the edges of a vast, airy space. Each one is poised, left hand on the barre, attention half focused on the teacher who seems to be making hand signals to accompany a short volley of franglais. .OK girls: two demi, one grande, port de bras, rise, balance and change position. First, second, fourth and fifth. Two bars in. And . . .' Let class begin.'

Reviews for The Everyday Dancer

'The Everyday Dancer is a shared story: an attempt to tell the truth about dancers' lives. And it is wonderful.'

– Observer, October 2, 2011

'One of the most attractive characteristics of this book is the way the author never loses sight of her beginnings...I found it enthralling.'

– Dancing Times, October 1, 2011

'I am struck by [Deborah Bull's] remarkable honesty...this is the book that sets it all straight and provides the truest insight into this mysterious world of any book I have ever read.'

– www.ballet.co.uk, October 2011

'Deborah Bull is an articulate, descriptive and enthusiastic writer...When the curtain falls, remember her words: 'Forget Degas and his pastel picture-book perfection.' This is the real dance world: tough, sometimes heartbreaking...but always triumphant and alive.'

– The Lady, November 4, 2011

If dance is a language, then the life of a dancer can seem like a mysterious code. A round of rituals big and small - class, rehearsals, the compulsive checking of noticeboards and schedules - it's also underpinned by physical and emotional intensities that outsiders can struggle to understand. With this elegant book, Deborah Bull offers a guide to the dancer's life, drawing on her career at the Royal Ballet to create an hour-by-hour timetable of costume fittings and calls, even answering the eternal mystery of what ballet dancers eat for lunch. While the detail is fascinating, underneath it all is a portrait of all-consuming dedication, a commitment all the more terrifying for coming with the inevitable prospect of built-in obsolescence. Growing up in Skegness, taking her first lessons above a fish-and-chip shop, Bull was captivated by the Princess Tina Ballet Annual, a Christmas present; this book may not come wrapped in so many layers of tulle and fantasy, but it deserves to take Princess Tina's place as essential reading for those dreaming of a life en pointe.

– Guardian, August 2012