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Dance Books.

Dr. Linda Hamilton's Advice for Dancers: Emotional Counsel and Practical Strategies (Jossey-Bass Publishers. 1998. 230 pages. $26. ISBN: 0-7879-4043-7) is an inspiring book with an impressive repertory of solutions to the psychological and physical problems that challenge every dancer. It is a comprehensive guide, thoroughly researched, thoughtfully organized, abidingly optimistic, and written in a down-to-earth style.

Hamilton's psychological insights are richly embroidered with stories drawn from the lives of the many dancers she has counseled. Readers are left with clear and poignant pictures of the conflicts, doubts, and obstacles shared by performers who often suffer in silence and secrecy. Throughout, Hamilton spotlights the way in which to achieve a healthy and happy career, where confusion, depression, and anxiety give way to exhilaration and renewed creative vitality.

Chapter One examines the factors to be weighed in choosing a dance career in ballet, modern, jazz, fusion, ballroom, hip-hop, tap, and other genres. These factors include body type, age, temperament, goals, drive, stamina, and resiliency. Hamilton offers pointers for selecting a style most appropriate to the dancer's natural talents and then devising a sensible training regimen.

Hamilton defines good and bad teaching methods. She explains, for instance, that humiliation induces habits of harsh self-criticism that may crystallize into faulty and self-defeating belief systems. Positively restructured, a more accurate belief system empowers the dancer with a sense of self-esteem, control, responsibility, determination, and optimism. Surely that is a recipe for future success.

Further chapters focus on interpersonal skills and flaws. She supplies the medical definitions of eating disorders, including anorexia and bulimia, and their startling statistics; then she goes on to recommend a healthy balance of exercise, food intake, and attitude. Hamilton addresses the mind-body connection in the prevention and treatment of dance-related injuries. She tackles stage fright, borrowing peak-performance strategies from Olympic athletics, supplemented with a wealth of relaxation and visualization techniques, and wisdom on when to seek out a nurturing support group or a knowing psychotherapist.

Chapter Five addresses the difficulties of balancing the values of artistic quality and financial security and even offers pointers on securing dance jobs.

Speaking from personal experience, she considers the twilight of a performing career a transitional period, involving preparation, healthy mourning for what is given up, and then a bold leap into the next career. Her extensive Resource Directory suggests exciting ways to remain connected to other members of the dance community.

I highly recommend Advice for Dancers.

International Dictionary of Modern Dance edited by Taryn Benbow-Pfalzgraf. Detroit: St. James Press. 1998. 891 pages. $160. ISBN: 1-55862-359-0.

Preface written by Don McDonagh; this tome includes chronology, nationality, and subject indices; entries on individuals; noted choreography and companies; and sites of schools and festivals.

Ballet 101: A Complete Guide to Learning and Loving the Ballet by Robert Greskovic. New York: Hyperion. 1998. 634 pages. $16.95 paper. ISBN: 0-7868-8155-0.

Includes a glossary, bibliographical references, and index; this text also has history, famous ballets and dancers, guides on how to look at a ballet, and recommended videos.

Tom Ettinger, Ph.D., is adjunct professor of psychology at New York University, and is editor of the American Psychological Association's Psychology and the Arts.
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Title Annotation:Review
Author:Ettinger, Tom
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 1999
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