COLLUSION by Evan Zimroth


Memoir of a Young Girl and Her Ballet Master
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An attempt to publicly exorcise personal demons, this should have remained private—not because the book shocks, but because it fails to inform or persuade a reader. Zimroth (Gangsters, 1996, winner of the National Jewish Book Award) began serious ballet training at age 12. For three years, she was locked in an intense, unhealthy relationship with a much older male ballet instructor whom she identifies only as “F.” No particular frame of reference is given for her cloistered ballet world—Zimroth merely explains that for her the rest of the world ceased to exist when she began studying with F. Perhaps the desert of detail comes partly in response to legal considerations. Yet not even balletomanes, lacking knowledge of Zimroth’s geographic locale, the relevant decade, etc., will be able to make rudimentary connections. As for the relationship itself, it’s hard to tell from the writing just what was going on. While it’s clear, for instance, that F hit his students (Zimroth included) with a cane when giving corrections in class, this is not so unusual according to ballet’s traditions. And the rest of what happened between a domineering teacher and a fawning, dependent student sounds like the fevered imagination of adolescence: “At barely 13, I enjoyed the subtle eroticism of power, the delicate interplay of threat and surrender.” An opening “Prelude,” recounting the semiviolent loss of Zimroth’s virginity some years later (she feels it echoed her ballet experience) only serves the interests of soap opera. Zimroth wants her ordeal with F to be considered typical of apprenticeships with revered and intimidating ballet teachers who impart valuable gifts. Yet a more balanced narrator would emphasize the gifts—not how delicious the intimidation was. Zimroth’s stated aim is not to purge herself of this experience, nor to warn others away from cruel ballet masters. Rather, she confides, damningly, she’s written these stories so that she can “dwell on them forever.”

Pub Date: Jan. 7th, 1999
ISBN: 0-06-018786-7
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1998