Raising the Barre (Lauren Kessler, 2015) was given to me because of my interest in ballet. I am sharing my thoughts about it because this is the time of year for the Nutcracker. It is an autobiographical novel about a middle-aged woman who becomes determined to dance in the Nutcracker in Eugene Oregon's professional ballet company. A major problem with this ambition is that she has not worn a pair of ballet slippers since she was 12 years old. Although an accomplished writer, teacher, and lecturer, she decides to take up something that she will have to start as a novice and is far too old to begin. In less than a year, she tries to develop enough facility as a dancer to perform with the company the very next December.
Even though she often indulges in too much detail for my taste and sometimes becomes down-right preachy, the author deals well with issues that plague many women, particularly ballet dancers, such as perfectionism and body image. Ms. Kessler vividly describes how others and especially herself try to deal with these issues. Over her months of trying to learn to dance, she struggles not to give into her worries about excellence, failure, and body shame.
And these concerns do not stop her. The barre the author raises is the bar she sets on her own life. By taking a chance that could result in failure, she raises the bar. She uses her body for love, not perfection, and grows as a person. I am glad that she shared her journey. Oh, and she did dance in the Nutcracker.
Kessler, Lauren. (2015). Raising the Barre. Da Capo Press.