Up to This Pointe by Jennifer Longo
Published by Random House Books for Young Readers on January 19th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Fiction, Young Adult
Amazon // The Book Depository
A refreshingly original contemporary YA, unlike anything readers have seen before. Perfect for fans of Jandy Nelson, John Corey Whaley, and Libba Bray.
She had a plan. It went south.
Harper is a dancer. She and her best friend, Kate, have one goal: becoming professional ballerinas. And Harper won’t let anything—or anyone—get in the way of The Plan, not even the boy she and Kate are both drawn to.
Harper is a Scott. She’s related to Robert Falcon Scott, the explorer who died racing to the South Pole. So when Harper’s life takes an unexpected turn, she finagles (read: lies) her way to the icy dark of McMurdo Station . . . in Antarctica. Extreme, but somehow fitting—apparently she has always been in the dark, dancing on ice this whole time. And no one warned her. Not her family, not her best friend, not even the boy who has somehow found a way into her heart.
i’m happy to be a part of UP TO THIS POINTE’s blog tour! thank you, random house, for providing me an eARC to read as well.
i adore ballet books – or even books that aren’t focused on ballet but have it briefly mentioned. books and ballet are two of my favorite things in life, so having them merge together as one is happiness. i love the paragraphs describing dance because to me, it’s something that one can’t reaaaaaally describe with words; you need to watch it – experience it – to fully comprehend. but somehow, these authors manage to capture the feeling and depiction of dancing, and every time i read it i smile and have the urge to turn on some tchaikovsky and do some pirouettes.
after some thinking, i decided to
try to write about ballet and explain it. (i mean, jennifer longo did it – wonderfully, might i add – so i suppose i could try talking about ballet as well) 80% of ballet is done in class, but most people don’t understand why i need to go to class every day when i already know all the steps. ballet class is different from regular class; not only are you learning new steps and combinations, you’re perfecting them. so here’s me, walking you through what a typical ballet class would consist of. like the art form itself, ballet classes are very structured.
disclaimer: all gifs and photos used in this post belong to their respectful owners. (bless you, tumblr people with epic gif-making skills.)
pre-class: stretching & floor exercises
what most people don’t understand is that i need at least and hour of buffer time before class begins – excluding changing and twisting my hair into a bun. i stretch and bend myself in all sorts of directions, wrapped up in the weirdest warmups you can possibly imagine, and stretch and stretch and stretch. i can’t take a proper class without a proper warm-up. i massage all my muscles and do floor exercises to make sure i’m warm and ready. this is a crucial part of the “ballet class experience.”
ballet starts at the barre. many dancers despise barre, but personally it’s my favorite part of class. it’s where you really work on your technique. in some ways, i find barre harder than centre. anyway, we start with a step most people know: plié, just bend your knees. seems simple enough… until you need to remember to turn out your legs, press your shoulders down, lift your hips, relax your fingers, stretch your arms, oh, and BREATHE. (and that’s only about 10% of the corrections to work on.) then we move onto battement tendus and jetés, which are still fairly simple. (but the simplest things are the most difficult; the worst part of dancing on stage is WALKING)
rond de jambes are the mid-point(e) of barre. combinations (what dancers call the sequence they’re dancing in class) can’t get very creative in tendus and pliés, but you can do so much more in rond de jambs. afterwards, we move onto more exciting things like frappé, fondu, adagio, grand battement, and more. by the end of barre, you’re well prepared to move onto the centre.
centre usually starts with adagio, which is a slow (and torturous) sequence with lots of (slow) leg lifting. (we do it on the barre, and again in centre.) i suppose this is what most people imagine ballet is like. afterwards, some classes also do tendus or jetés in centre. it’s hard to explain or describe centre because every teacher does it a little differently or out of order. i’ll try to “teach” the more generic way. moving on…
PIROUETTES (or turning in general)! they’re my favorite favorite favorite part of class. i wait all of barre (and all of adagio) to get here. (you could probably tell i like twirling because TWIRLING pages) there are many different ways to incorporate turns, so there are usually multiple combinations, sometimes starting from the corner and going across the floor. turns are so fun because there are so many different ways you can turn. the possibilities for turning are endless because there’s an infinite amount of turns you can do. for other things, you can only lift your leg so high or perfect a step by so much but there are always more turns you can do.
after pirouettes, we move onto petit allegro or small jumps. usually, this is to warm up your body for big jumps so you don’t injure yourself later. petit allegro is also where you work on your footwork. you need to point your feet fast and have good agility. it can also be really fun and this is part of the class when you really start to feel like you’re DANCING as opposed to just ballet-ing, if that makes any sense.
then we have medium allegro which is exactly what it sounds like – medium jumps. and afterwards, grand allegro. grand allegro is when you can JUMP and feel like a free bird. but it’s also extremely tiring if done continuously because it’s basically the end of class and it’s like extreme cardio.
the last part of class is optional; most finish with grand allegro, but if your teacher is feeling pretty good then you’ll get the extra fun stuff. girls will typically do fouettés – a type of turn – and boys will generally do a la seconde turns or cool jumpy stuff.
about the author
Jennifer Longo holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Acting from San Francisco State University and a Master of Fine Arts degree in Writing For Theatre from Humboldt State University. She is a two-time Irene Ryan Best Actor Award recipient and a Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival Best Full Length Script honoree for her play, FROZEN. After years of acting, playwriting, working as a literary assistant at San Francisco’s Magic Theatre, then as an elementary school librarian, Jennifer told the occasional story at San Francisco’s Porch Light Storytelling Series and decided at last to face her fear of prose and actually write some. Her debut novel, SIX FEET OVER IT (Random House Books) received starred reviews from Kirkus and The Bulletin, and was selected as a VOYA Perfect Ten and an Indies Introduce New Voices title. Jen’s next novel, UP TO THIS POINTE (Random House Books) will publish January 19th, 2016. A California native and recent San Francisco transplant, Jennifer now lives with her husband and daughter on an island near Seattle, Washington and her every hour is consumed by writing, running marathons, taking her kid to ballet class eleven thousand times each week and reading every book she can get her hands on. // website + twitter