The same ballets, season after season

Toni Bentley in a grand jeté. Photo by Martha Swope.
Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library. (1975).  

Toni Bentley was three years old when she was taken to her first ballet class by her mother. Seven years and countless lessons later, she was enrolled at the New York City Ballet’s prestigious School of American Ballet, and at 17 she was chosen by its legendary founder, George Balanchine, to join the company itself. Seven years into that invaluable tutelage, with her confidence waning after years of tireless dedication, Bentley decided to keep a written record of the agonies and ecstasies of a single winter ballet season: November 1980 to February 1981. The brutally honest and insightful diary that resulted was published in 1982. This particular entry sees her imagining a reset that would eventually be forced upon her: osteoarthritis in Bentley’s hip socket ended her dance career in 1984.

The Diary Entry

January 5: I’m truly sad today. I’m twenty-two, and feel that my career is at a standstill. For eleven or twelve years it has moved forward, and now it is stagnating and going nowhere. What can I feel but at some sort of ending? Twenty-two and my career, a big section of my life, feels over. I suppose I should be happy I am still young enough to begin again, but I’ve no money, no lover, no future I can see, only the same ballets, season after season. I am not alone. I’m sure forty other girls feel the same at times. But on we go day by day, rehearsing the same ballets. When the curtain goes up, there is fifteen minutes of joy and pleasure; the next day the same thing happens all over again.

Further Reading

Toni Bentley’s diary was first published in 1982, titled, Winter Season: A Dancer’s Journal. A new edition with an updated preface was published in 2003 by University Press of Florida.

Excerpted from Winter Season: A Dancer’s Journal by Toni Bentley. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2003. Reprinted with permission of the University Press of Florida.

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