Book Fair: Principal Dancer Offers Practical Advice To Aspiring Dancers
Early in her book, So You Want to Be a Professional Dancer? (University Press of Florida), prima ballerina Jennifer Kronenberg conjures up a childhood memory that many women share: that of being a little girl traipsing around the house in a beloved tutu and tiara. Like many girls, Kronenberg was bitten by the ballet bug at an early age. However, the principal dancer with Miami City Ballet soon disperses with the idea that ballet is all glittering tiaras and standing ovations. Kronenberg has been dancing for over 20 years, and she puts her experience to good use in So You Want to Be a Professional Dancer? It is a practical guide written in the thoughtful, knowledgeable voice of a big sister or mentor. Artburst caught up with Kronenberg to discuss her book, now in its second edition. AB: What was the impetus for the book? What inspired you and when did you know you were writing a book? JK: My husband Carlos [Guerra, also an MCB dancer] actually convinced me to start writing the book. I had wanted to write for a long time, but didn’t know how or where to begin. He knew how much I enjoyed writing, teaching, and my career as a ballerina and the book seemed a great way to combine all three. When I began writing the book about five years ago I was teaching for the Miami City Ballet School’s Summer Intensive, and my students really served as my inspiration. They would ask me so many questions — from the most basic to the very complex. It seemed as if they genuinely craved and appreciated the advice of a professional dancer, not just a teacher. It seemed that the fact that I was still dancing really increased my credibility. As I began to write, the anecdotes, subject matter, and words of advice started to flow out pretty quickly. It really wasn’t long before I realized I was really writing my first book. Tell us about the book’s publication history. The book was first published in electronic format by Diversion Books. My literary agent, Ron Goldfarb, helped me get the connection with Diversion and suggested an e-book may be the route to take after a year of being turned down by traditional publishing houses. The e-book sold rather well, and I was pleased to finally have my work published in some way, but it was shorter and much more concise than I had imagined. It seemed unfinished to me, in a way. About two years after its electronic publication, Ron introduced it on a whim to The University Press of Florida and they loved it, but also found it too short. Before publishing it in paperback they requested that I add quite a bit of content as well as demonstrative photos and links to self produced You Tube videos to accompany some of the chapters in the book. In the print edition I discuss finances, sexual harassment, and eating disorders — all new content — and I also added in input from fellow dancers, physical therapists, nutritionists, a psychologist, and other professionals so as to enhance and round out the perspective of the advice I was giving. Do you have plans to write more in the future? If so, what would you like to write? I have actually already started my next book! My husband and I have embarked on the adventure together this time, and are co-authoring a book on pas de deux/partnering from a “his and her” point of view. What trends or changes in the world of professional dance do you see now as opposed to when you were starting out? What advice do you offer to help prepare young dancers? Nowadays it seems that dancers are expected to, more than ever before, join a company completely prepared. Company dancers seem to be younger in general and there is less preparation time. A dancer is an apprentice one minute and being thrown into soloist and principal roles the next. Not as much time is given to coaching, mentoring, and artistic growth. If one isn’t ready from the get go, then it’s on to the next dancer. That can be a great platform for opportunity for some, but a quick road to injury and burnout for others. I also think that the younger generation of dancers has come to expect instant success. If and when then don’t find it, they get completely discouraged and want to quit. They miss out on so much by wishing for their careers to take off overnight, like a quick boil, instead relishing the beauty of taking the time to savor and perfect their art at a slow simmer. Ballet is a profession for relatively young people. What advice or thoughts do you have for a dancer toward the end of his or her career? Well, since I’m sort of at that latter stage myself, a place I never imagined I’d be, I guess the best advice I can give older dancers is to not be afraid of the end — there really isn’t a true end, since every end leads to a beginning. Embrace the artistic height of your career and continue to learn and grow everyday. Know that it is possible to reinvent yourself in so many ways…but try be realistic about when your dancing career is coming to a close so that you mentally allow yourself the freedom to do so. Jennifer Kronenberg presents her book, So You Want to Be a Professional Dancer? on Sunday, Nov. 24, at 1:30 p.m. At the Miami Book Fair International, Miami Dade College, 300 NE Second Ave., Miami, Room 8302 (Building 8, 3rd Floor). Free of charge with entrance to the fair. For more information go to Miamibookfair.com.