Renee E 'Aoust has written memoir about her time as an aspiring dancer at the Martha Graham school in New York City. A memoir offers an intimate look into one person's experience. The maniacal obsession that E'Aoust lays out as being her life in dance is a grim one. She takes the reader into her very disturbed world filled with shame and being putdown for not being good enough, thin enough, or suffering enough to make it to the top. She reveals how distorted her thinking was as she pitted herself against the many other striving wannabe dancers. It was cut-throat as they all vied to make it into the dance company, and D'Aoust was filled with insecurities and self-loathing. She writes rawly and holds nothing back. She writes that she honestly loved to dance. But the agony of her day to day existence, that she spells out in great detail, might make readers wonder how anyone would put themself through that kind of pain. Dancers may appreciate her stories, but I think non-dancers might think taking up this profession is insane.
Body of a Dancer, is a book that explores the psychologically of what happens when vulnerable people team up with other insecure people who are then lead by bullies. What D'Aoust went through was more shocking then you can imagine. She has many stories about her time in the studio taking classes, as well as auditioning and performing. She is a strong writer and a good storyteller.
D'Aoust also works as a dance critic, and at times her memoir strays into criticism. This part doesn't work for me. As a dancer she was filled with envy and bitterness towards others that succeeded. Her tone is nasty and snippy as she describes David Dorfman in Act One,
"he thinks he's a choreographer and writer, but really he simply used to be a baseball player so he knows how to squat real well."
I think D'Aoust was hoping to show pettiness to point out how insecure she was by needing to belittle others, but it was jumbled in it's many layers. The writing style here is an unhappy blend of poetic thoughts and, personal memories that just aren't clear in their intent.
Better suited were the chapters where intricate accounts of her day to day existence take the reader deep into the world of dance. There are many tragic souls depicted and D'Aoust writes with tenderness towards a few that struggled along with herself.
"control is always an issue in a dancer's life. Daniela's life was no different... dancer's have a necessarily complicated relationship to their body, known as the instrument"
Danielle weighed just 90 pounds and commits suicide. Dance training and the toll it puts on the body is what D'Aoust is addressing. It's a serious problem for some in dance. This is a worthy book, but please dear readers know that while dance is competitive and demanding this is one person's memoir and experience.
D'Aoust's book Body of a Dancer is due to be released next month by Etruscan Press.