Posted by Rebecca King on 10.02.2011
Click here to order your copy of “Bunheads.”
This past June, a fellow dancer introduced me to a young author, Sophie Flack.
In 2009, Ms. Flack retired from her corps de ballet position in New York City Ballet. She decided to expand her horizons by pursing higher education at Columbia University. Shortly after her departure from NYCB, she was approached by an editor at Little, Brown, to write a book about her experiences in the professional ballet world. Two years later, “Bunheads” was released.
Below is my Question and Answer with Ms. Flack:
1. What can we expect from your new book, “Bunheads”?
After dancing professionally for nearly a decade I wanted to give readers an inside look at what happens backstage, and what it’s like to grow up in the professional dance world.
The world is viewed though the eyes of a corps de ballet dancer named Hannah Ward, who is conflicted about whether she wants to continue to compete against her friends for a promotion, or see what’s beyond the windowless theater. Even though the novel is set in the elite and insular world of professional dance, Hannah’s coming of age story is really universal – she is trying to figure out what sort of person she wants to be.
2. You obviously pulled inspiration from your ballet career for “Bunheads”. How did you create the main character “Hannah” and the experiences she has in your novel?
I had kept journals throughout my dance career, and when I began to write Bunheads, I referred to my diaries in order to research Hannah’s voice. I wanted to discover the kinds of things that interested a young corps dancer and what their struggles, frustrations, and relationships might be.
3. What led you to write this book?
After the company layoffs in 2009, I was featured in a New York Times article on how the economic downturn was affecting the performing artists. An editor at Little, Brown, (and lifelong ballet fanatic) Elizabeth Bewley, happened to read the article and invited me to come in for a meeting. After sharing some juicy backstage stories, Elizabeth asked me if I’d ever considered writing a book.
4. What surprised you about the writing process?
While dancing in the corps de ballet provided a community, as a writer and a student my life is more solitary and I find that I value my friendships differently.
5. When we met, you mentioned how much you enjoyed college. What has higher education brought to your life?
For me, higher education has proved to be incredibly empowering and humbling all at once. I am particularly grateful to have a liberal arts education because I’m forced to take subjects that I wouldn’t have chosen otherwise; those are the classes that have really expanded my perception of the world – sociology, anthropology, philosophy, history, psychology. Columbia is a tough school but it has been the best gift I could have ever given myself– it has truly changed my life. I feel more confident and fulfilled as a person than I ever have before.
6. How has writing this book helped you with your transition after your retirement?
Writing proved to be an emotional catharsis as I gradually came to grips with the conclusion of my career. There were moments when all I wanted to do was look ahead and not back, but I forced myself to go to places that weren’t emotionally comfortable.
7. Do you think you will re-visit ballet in the future?
I still have ballet anxiety dreams in which I hear my music and miss my entrance!
A huge thanks to Sophie for taking the time for this interview! Wishing her all the best in the future!
To purchase Ms. Flack’s new novel, “Bunheads,” click here!