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