Toni Bentley danced with the New York City Ballet for ten years and is the author of five books, including Winter Season: A Dancer’s Journal, Sisters of Salome, and The Surrender: An Erotic Memoir. She is the recipient of a 2008 Guggenheim Fellowship and is currently working on a book about Balanchine’s ballet Serenade. (November 2009)

Boxers and Ballerinas

John Goodman: Terrorize, 1996

Too often ballet dancers are paired with flowers and satin in a pastel romanticization of what is, in truth, an uncompromising art, the most demanding on the body of all artistic pursuits. Boxers, meanwhile, are reduced to their swollen eyes, flying sweat, pooling blood and heaving torsos. But in John Goodman’s first solo exhibition in New York, he juxtaposes beautiful black and white images of both—his photographs of dancers of the Boston Ballet taken in 2004 alongside his photographs of boxers taken at the famed Times Square Gym in 1996. We can now see the infinite similarities between these sylphs and gladiators—and each takes on a new clarity.

A Ballerina, Inside Out

Toni Bentley, age 16, in Paquita

“Doctor, I want my hip bone.”

Doctor Padgett did a double take. “I want my bone, you know, what you’ll be taking out.” “Well, I don’t know about that,” he said, “you’ll have to talk to pathology about that.” Down the hall, the pathologist said sure. A couple of weeks after surgery you can have it. (First they would have to conduct the routine tests on any newly removed body part.) They both asked me the same question: “Why?” I wasn’t sure, I just knew I wanted it. Perhaps I didn’t want to part with the part of me that had caused me the most pain without having a final word.

The Bad Lion

Satan, the ‘bad lion,’ Sabi Sands game reserve, South Africa
We saw him on our first game drive. We had left the camp at about 4 PM and it was shortly after that. The vehicle stopped by a clearing between some small trees and Alfie, the ranger, said, “Lion.” We couldn’t see him. “Where?” Camouflage and jetlag together can be …

The Master

George Balanchine, the greatest dance innovator of the twentieth century, and possibly the most important in all 350 years of classical dance history since the language was codified in the court of Louis XIV, has just been subjected to a global celebration lasting an entire year in honor of the …