A Dancer in Wartime: One Girl’s Journey from the Blitz to Sadler’s Wells by Gillian Lynne; The Everyday Dancer by Deborah Bull - review by Rupert Christiansen

Rupert Christiansen

Pointes of View

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


Chatto & Windus 292pp £14.99

The Everyday Dancer


Faber & Faber 212pp £14.99

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.

But read these two modest and likeable yet strangely unrevealing memoirs, and it doesn’t seem like that at all. There’s certainly very little sign of agony emanating from their authors, two sensible, clean-living girls from middle-class, suburban backgrounds. Plucky, hard-working, uncomplaining and optimistic, Gillian Lynne and Deborah Bull simply seem

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

RLF - March

Follow Literary Review on Twitter