Book Review: Dancing Through It by Jenifer Ringer
As a lifelong lover of dance, I’m always up for a ballerina memoir. Dancing Through It: My Journey In The Ballet by Jenifer Ringer is a personal and engaging insider’s look at the New York City Ballet. A strong dancer from an early age, Ringer was thrilled to be accepted into the School of American Ballet (or, as I know it, the real-life Center Stage) in New York. She joined City Ballet at sixteen. Aside from a few leaves of absence, Ringer continued as a company member and eventual principal dancer until her retirement just this month at the age of 40. The book is full of funny anecdotes, stories about her most memorable ballets, and reflections on working with famous choreographers like Jerome Robbins and Peter Martins.
However, for me, the real meat of this memoir is in Ringer’s faith testimony and unflinching discussion of her struggle with eating disorders. In her late teens, overworked and underequipped for adulthood, she fell into a brutal cycle of binging and purging. After gaining so much weight that she was fired from the company, she was forced to build a new life and sense of self-worth. Only when she found a better sense of balance was she able to return to a healthy weight and start dancing professionally again. This personal background became public in 2010 when a New York Times reviewer criticized her weight. Due to “Sugarplumgate,” Ringer was invited onto a number of shows (including Oprah) to discuss body image in the dance world as well as her own history. She felt strongly that God had given her an opening to talk about these issues and potentially help others. I can relate to a sense of being called to share about painful parts of your past, and think it was really brave of her to do so.
Two things about Ringer’s story pleasantly surprised me. One, she achieved real success in the ballet world without having to compromise her Christian faith. Two, she met her husband at City Ballet… a straight male professional dancer who’s also a Christian. Let that sink in for a minute.
Some have criticized the lack of narrative structure toward the end of Dancing Through It, but that didn’t bother me. My only issue was that Ringer’s consistent earnestness and gushiness got a little wearisome. I watched some videos of her dancing after finishing the book, and I think if I’d done so beforehand, I would have had a more sophisticated mental picture of her.
Overall, this is a solid read for anyone who enjoys memoirs by people in the arts!
I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
About Brenda W.Christian. Memphian. Reader. Writer. True blue Tiger fan. Lover of shoes, the ocean, adventure, and McAlister's iced tea. View all posts by Brenda W. →
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