Various Positions

Various Positions

A Novel

Paperback - 2011
Average Rating:
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Nuanced, fresh, and gorgeously well-written, Martha Schabas' extraordinary debut novel takes us inside the beauty and brutality of professional ballet, and the young women striving to make it in that world. Shy and introverted, and trapped between the hyper-sexualized world of her teenaged friends and her dysfunctional family, Georgia is only at ease when she's dancing. Fortunately, she's an unusually talented and promising dancer. When she is accepted into the notoriously exclusive Royal Ballet Academy--Canada's preeminent dance school--Georgia thinks she has made the perfect escape. In ballet, she finds the exhilarating control and power she lacks elsewhere in her life: physical, emotional and, increasingly, sexual.
 
This dynamic is nowhere more obvious than in Georgia's relationship with Artistic Director Roderick Allen. As Roderick singles her out as a star and subjects her to increasingly vicious training, Georgia obsesses about becoming his perfect student, disciplined and sexless. But a disturbing incident with a stranger on the subway, coupled with her dawning recognition of the truth of her parents' unhappy marriage, causes her to radically reassess her ideas about physical boundaries--a reassessment that threatens both Roderick's future at the academy and Georgia's ambitions as a ballerina.

Publisher: [Toronto] : Doubleday Canada, c2011
ISBN: 9780385668767
Branch Call Number: FIC SCH
Characteristics: 361 p. ; 21 cm

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wendybird Sep 28, 2012

I thoroughly enjoyed this book -- a cross between Alice Munroe's "Lives of girls & women" (coming of age, young Canadian woman) & "Black swan" (with its tensions between good & evil, grace & chaos). While it is set in a dance academy, it is not really a book about ballet, and it certainly isn't book for younger teens. The writing is witty, clever, funny & insightful. As Georgia grows, she learns painfully how quickly just a few well (or poorly) placed words can destroy : welcome to Adulthood.

e
einekatze
Feb 24, 2012

A lot of novels and biographies about ballet emphasize its negative points. I found this book rare in that it made me love ballet more at the end of it. I found the story engaging and it was easy for me to get absorbed into the main character Georgia. It stuck in my head and gave me lots to think about. Also, the conclusion was very uplifting. Certainly the descriptive language is uncommon (in a good way), kind of like Sylvia Plath in The Bell Jar.

Cdnbookworm Jan 23, 2012

This is a gem of a novel. Told in the voice of a teenage girl as she auditions for a place in the Royal Toronto Ballet Academy and then how things go for her there.
This is a story of wanting something and the lengths a person will go to to achieve their goals. This is a story of growing up, dealing with sexuality as one discovers it in oneself and becomes aware of it in those around us. This is a story of relationships: friends, family, teachers.
The writing is exquisite. One line that I loved: "...her eyes had the tender look of someone who's just taken off her glasses." I know exactly what she means by that.
It is set in the world of a ballet school around a ballet student, a world I am completely unfamiliar with. But one doesn't need to be familiar with that world to appreciate the story here, because it is about human behaviour.

i
Ireadalot2
Jan 10, 2012

Stupid book.
Not about ballet.

h
halgeon
Dec 20, 2011

A fair book, but I found the insights of the main character -- a 14-year old girl -- to be implausible (that is, mature) for her age. Her insights certainly didn't match her impulses (which were plausible for a 14-year old girl). As a result, the story felt forced to find balance between what to me was plausible and implausible.

ksoles Nov 17, 2011

Martha Schabas' first novel wastes no time in hooking the reader; by page six, "Various Positions" has already displayed its eloquence and corporeality.

With a handful of elite adolescents, Georgia Slade enters Toronto's Academy of Ballet and encounters Roderick, the merciless artistic director. The dance program bursts with psychological warfare as students must endure both Roderick's and each other's emotional bombardments. But callow, desirous Georgia soon discovers that ballet encompasses something more onerous than physical and mental hardship: sexual tension. Juggling her own longing with her erotic power, she hatches a crazy plan that climaxes in a perfectly forthright, sensitive and reflexive scene.

Although the lead-up to Georgia's outrageous act at times drowns in pornographic undertones, the novel ultimately personifies the kidnapping of innocence by surging hormones. Schabas's dialogue is extraordinarily tight, expressive and heart-breaking, filling the reader with a desire to comfort and protect the young protagonist. It may inspire controversy and resistance but "Various Positions" succeeds as a wonderfully courageous debut.

ElanaNicholls Oct 28, 2011

Not quite what I expected. I kept waiting and waiting for the pace to pick up, for something to happen. It never really did. It seemed a promising read but fell flat.

t
tamaravh
Jul 10, 2011

Smart, striking, and surprisingly sexual, ‘Various Positions’ is a book you’ll want to read. Ballet is about beauty, grace, perfection and 15 year old Georgia strives to achieve these virtues as she attends the exclusive Royal Toronto Ballet Academy. Georgia has the skill to because a Prima Ballerina but the pressures that all teenagers face – self esteem, acceptance, sexual awakening, all threaten to bring her world down.
Obviously there will be comparisons to the film ‘Black Swan’, but that shouldn’t deter you from reading this book. This story is mostly about a girl trying to cope with being a teenager and learning to navigate life. Being Canadian myself, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the book was set in Toronto. (Which mean yes, I picked this book up because of the cover). It was a great read, and a new and fresh look into the world of ballet. This is a great book that I’d recommend.

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t
tamaravh
Jul 10, 2011

tamaravh thinks this title is suitable for 18 years and over

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