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A Review of

Dance Crazy: Star Turns From Ballet To Belly Dancing

by Natalie Jane Prior

 

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Summary

This book for pre-teens contains an overview of the world of dance, with emphasis showing it through the real-life experiences of actual dancers. It provides some historical information, some information about how a modern-day dance company works, some biographical information about famous dancers, and some snapshots of dance around the world. Cover

 

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Fact Sheet

Title

Dance Crazy: Star Turns From Ballet To Belly Dancing

Author

Natalie Jane Prior

ISBN

1-86373-929-7

Publisher

Allen & Unwin

Category

Children

Rating

StarStarStar

Number of Pages

93

Published In

1995

Reading Level

Ages 9-12

 

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Description

This book is a collection of true stories about dancers of various dance styles.

The first section is titled "A Working Ballet Company". It describes the many job positions that are involved in bringing a professional ballet to the stage, including those of the dancers, the artistic director, the set and costume designer, and the choreographer. To show what these people do, it describes the tasks they perform to prepare a major production of the classical ballet Sleeping Beauty.

In the second section, "Star Spots: Some Famous Dancers", the book offers profiles of several famous dancers. These include Maria Taglione, Isadora Duncan, Fred Astaire, Margot Fonteyn, and Rudolf Nureyev. The profiles offer insights into what shaped these people into the star-quality dancers they eventually became. There are also brief mentions of less-famous dancers whose stories are interesting, such as Emma Livry, Signor Donato the one-legged dancer, and brawling Lola Montes with her whip.

The third section, titled "Dancing Life", provides a bit of history about ballet shoes and tips for taking care of your own ballet shoes. It then goes on to talk about injury, with real-life stories of how injuries interrupted dancers' careers. This is the first place in the book where belly dancing is mentioned, on page 64, as an Australian dancer named Yani says a few words about how the primary cause of injury in belly dancing is due to poor technique. The "injury" chapter as a whole discusses the conditions most likely to cause injury, tells the stories of a couple of dancers whose careers were affected by injury, and offers some first-aid tips to follow in case of dance-related injury.

The fourth and final section titled "A Dancing World" looks at dancers from around the world. The chapter actually opens with historical dances done for fertility, war preparation, hunting, celebration, and spirituality. It includes a five-page section on belly dancing, with some historical and cultural perspective. Also included are the tarantella, the sailor's hornpipe, the "dance" of the heavenly bodies in the night sky, Medieval and Renaissance dance, court dances in France under Louis XIV, Morris dancing, the role Anna Pavlova played in bringing ballet to Australia, and modern-day popular dances.

 

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Is It Right for You?

 

You Will Probably Enjoy This Book If...

  • You love all forms of dance, but have a special fondness for ballet.
  • A young person in your life has a passion for dance, especially ballet.
  • You would find it interesting to catch a behind-the-scenes glimpse of how a professional ballet company puts a show together.
  • You would enjoy a book that provides some insights into dance history.

 

This Book Probably Isn't Right for You If...

  • The title has led you to believe that it's about belly dancing.
  • Although you love dance, you don't have enough interest in ballet to read a book that's mostly about ballet.

 

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What I Liked, What I Didn't

 

What I Liked:

  • The book is entertaining to read.
  • Even though it is intended for children, the book is written in a style that adults can enjoy as well.
  • The opening section on the behind-the-scenes work of mounting a ballet production is very interesting, and I invite belly dancers to compare it to what goes into mounting a belly dancing show.
  • The Star Spots section is very informative, providing some interesting information about ballet.
  • The section on belly dancing in the chapter "A Dancing World" is respectful to the art form.
  • Words that were likely to be unfamiliar to a young reader are highlighted in bold, and then defined in a glossary in the back.
  • The book is written from an Australian point of view, which gives it a fresh perspective compared to the U.S.-centric books I'm accustomed to reading.

 

What I Didn't Like:

  • I would have preferred a less misleading subtitle for the book. The subtitle Star Turns From Ballet To Belly Dancing led me to believe that a prima ballerina had changed careers and become a belly dancer. That is not what the book is about.
  • "The Dancing Life" chapter is somewhat weak. Although it is interesting, it isn't nearly as informative as other parts of the book.
  • I wish the book had been just a little longer. When I finished reading it, I found myself wanting more!
  • Some of the "facts" about belly dancing in the "Dancing World" section are rather questionable, such as its claim that the highest-paid belly dancers in the world are male, or its claim that 3,500-year-old drawings in Egyptian tombs show "belly dancing".
  • The "Strictly Belly Dancing" chapter is not strictly belly dancing. It contains a disproportionate amount of information about dancing in Uzbekistan which in fact has nothing to do with Oriental dance (belly dancing). The information about dance from this region is interesting and worthy of being included in this book, but should have been a chapter on its own, separated from belly dancing.

 

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Conclusion

If you're looking for an overview of dance in general, including ballet and other dance forms, I can definitely recommend this book. It's entertaining to read and informative.

However, its subtitle of "Star Turns from Ballet to Belly Dancing" is misleading, and only 5 pages of this 93-page book are actually dedicated to Oriental dance. For that reason, I wouldn't recommend it as a resource for someone who wants to read about belly dancing in particular.

 

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Disclosures

There is nothing to disclose. I have never had any contact with anyone associated with this book.

 

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