Rupert Christiansen

Pointes of View

A Dancer in Wartime: One Girl’s Journey from the Blitz to Sadler’s Wells

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Chatto & Windus 292pp £14.99 order from our bookshop

The Everyday Dancer

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Faber & Faber 212pp £14.99 order from our bookshop

After watching any of the great ballet movies – Waterloo Bridge, The Red Shoes, The Turning Point, Black Swan – one might reasonably assume that a masochistic complex underlies the psychopathology of the female ballet dancer. Why else would any adolescent choose a life framed by a grinding daily routine and ruled by brutal sergeant-major ballet mistresses, which offers only a brief career, almost inevitably dogged by muscular injury – to say nothing of the attendant eating disorders and modest material rewards? Margot Fonteyn is reported to have held the view that if audiences knew how much pain ballet causes its performers, only people who liked bullfights could bear to watch it.

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