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Twelve stories by poet and short-story writer Brenner--with each exploring a particular brand of dancing in a style that is minimal but carefully textured. Anyone interested in the psychology of dancers (occasionally the term is used metaphorically rather than literally) should find something absorbing here. ""The Ballet Dancer"" is a touching tale of eight-year-old Francine; ballet is the first word she says, but Madame T. rejects her on account of her feet, so that her career is short-circuited before it begins. ""The Closet Dancer"" is about a widow who returns to her roots in Appalachia and meets Jimmy, who got out of Vietnam by calling himself, ambiguously, a ""closet dancer."" ""The Ballroom Dancer"" is an effective look at a girl of prom age caught between her divorced patents; the complications ruin her evening: ""I promised Momma I would never dance with a loser."" The Snow Dancer,"" also vivid, follows Gateau from his home on a Caribbean island to New York, where he goes finally because he wants to see snow. ""The Rock 'n' Dancer,"" a sketch, describes Alto, who initially imagines he knows ""how to get higher and higher,"" but ends with despair: ""Nothing's ever going to happen with me!"" In The African Dancer,"" Sonny, a young white woman, is accepted by her peers in a black dance company: ""She sure don't move white, do she?"" ""The Converted Dancer"" is a historical tale about two sisters in a convent--one, ""already signed over to God,"" goes home for her 16th birthday by claiming that her eldest sister is sick because she wants to dance. She does (""A sin against God to be His dancer""), and her eldest sister takes sick and dies. The structure sounds a little gimmicky in summary, but most of the stories work on their own quiet terms: they neither overwhelm nor disappoint.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1990
Publisher: Coffee House