When I recently heard a feature on NPR about a new historical novel called "The Painted Girls" by Cathy Marie Buchanan, I was very intrigued. Called "The Seedy Underbelly of Belle Epoque," NPR reviews the book telling the story about impoverished girls who entered the ballet school of the Paris Opera in the 1800s as a possible way of escaping grim lives. Edgar Degas's Little Dancer Aged Fourteen is a replica of the main character of this book, Marie van Goethem.
I immediately put myself on the waiting list at the Palos Verdes Library District and I think I was first on the list. Because I've been pretty much waylaid for days with influenza, all I've done mostly is read, sleep and watch movies.
What little girl does not have dreams of the ballet? Both my closest young girlfriends growing up in Sunland, CA took both ballet and piano lessons, but my parents did not have the money for that. But, I observed them endlessly. By the way, I'm pretty much a klutz so even if I had taken lessons, I doubt I would have lasted a month. I did indulge myself as an adult with piano lessons, too, by the way, but I sucked. But--my own daughter Christy got her mom's dreams forced on her with ballet and piano. Her heart wasn't in it, but she did dance until she was in her early teens.
I was mesmerized by the book and can't recommend it enough. Though all of Degas art has not particularly grabbed me, I know for generations of people, it has--particularly little girls who dream of being ballet dancers.
Some Googling brought up this BBC documentary below telling the story of the bronze and how it came to be and how it is being analyzed and studied. Another good way to spend an hour and learning more, too. Ever since I was a little kid, my mind has been a curious one. It is imperative that I learn new things every day or a little piece of me shrinks away. My dad said I had a mind like a sponge and though with age the sponge can't quite soak up the way it used to, reading "The Painted Girls" has been a marvelous way to keep my mind active.
The BBC documentary has shown clips of a film about Degas and this bronze, but I haven't been able to locate it yet. Anyone have any ideas?