Arguably the greatest movie musical ever made, Singin’ in the Rain is celebrated as much for its songs and dances as its behind-the-scenes lore: Gene Kelly’s 101-degree fever while filming the title number; Donald O’Connor taking to his bed with exhaustion after filming “Make ’Em Laugh”—only to have to reshoot it days later due to a camera malfunction; Debbie Reynolds rehearsing until her feet bled. But of all the “making of” stories, the most impressive is that Reynolds, only 19 at the time, learned to dance in just three months to play leading lady Kathy Selden.

Ballet is such a rarefied field that on those infrequent occasions when a mainstream publisher releases a ballet-themed book, we devotees race to read it. Thus I dove enthusiastically into Lauren Kessler’s ridiculous new memoir, Raising the Barre: Big Dreams, False Starts and My Midlife Quest to Dance The Nutcracker. In concise, snappily written prose, it tells the improbable story of how, as a middle-aged woman, Kessler arrogantly decided she would—in nine months—prepare herself to perform in a professional production of the beloved Christmastime classic with Oregon’s Eugene Ballet Company. 

New Yorkers notoriously take their city’s abundant cultural riches for granted. And considering the complacency they exhibit toward Chelsea’s gem, the Joyce Theater, the Big Apple’s dance fiends are no exception. A sterling venue for dance, the Joyce has perfect sight lines, comfy seats, a cozy intimacy, friendly ticket takers who recognize regulars—and the most reasonably priced café in town. Okay, the sound technicians usually overamplify the music, but that’s my only complaint.

In her otherwise insightful book, Rebel on Pointe: A Memoir of Ballet & Broadway, former dancer Lee Wilson makes misleading claims regarding gender equality in the dance world. For centuries, across cultures, female dancers have served as muses, pawns or interpreters of male ideas. As dance evolved, both as an art form (such as ballet) and as commercial entertainment (in Broadway musicals), men traditionally assumed the creative authority and leadership roles.