Finalist, the Arts Club of Washington Marfield Prize
A look inside a dancer’s world
Inspiring, revealing, and deeply relatable, Being a Ballerina is a firsthand look at the realities of life as a professional ballet dancer. Through episodes from her own career, Gavin Larsen describes the forces that drive a person to study dance; the daily balance that dancers navigate between hardship and joy; and the dancer’s continual quest to discover who they are as a person and as an artist.
Starting with her arrival as a young beginner at a class too advanced for her, Larsen tells how the embarrassing mistake ended up helping her learn quickly and advance rapidly. In other stories of her early teachers, training, and auditions, she explains how she gradually came to understand and achieve what she and her body were capable of.
Larsen then re-creates scenes from her experiences in dance companies, from unglamorous roles to exhilarating performances. Working as a ballerina was shocking and scary at first, she says, recalling unexpected injuries, leaps of faith, and her constant struggle to operate at the level she wanted—but full of enormously rewarding moments. Larsen also reflects candidly on her difficult decision to retire at age 35.
An ideal read for aspiring dancers, Larsen’s memoir will also delight experienced dance professionals and fascinate anyone who wonders what it takes to live a life dedicated to the perfection of the art form.