"You will read these poems with held breath, as though watching an artfully choreographed tragedy unfold." ~Anita Lahey
"The poems in Disassembling A Dancer are en pointe, the language bruised and striking." ~Yvonne Blomer
"A unique and rare visit by a unique and rare poet
to an elite world.” ~Dede Crane
“Intense and sensual... Regehr’s language is mesmerizing.” ~ Kayla Czaga
Her language – trim, muscled, momentumed – soars. The sequence is unforgettable. ~ Tim Lilburn
"A unique and rare visit by a unique and rare poet to an elite world." ~ Dede Crane
ABOUT DISASSEMBLING A DANCER
Enter the elite and haunting world of ballet through the eyes of a dancer who has given every rib and finger, every blistered toe to the company. Leap and fall with her, love and starve with her, as she inventories her injuries, her hunger, her cocktail of daily pills, her pointe shoes... as she eavesdrops in the wings of an industry "cattle call", pines after her ballerino, watches her photographed image advertise a show she's no longer dancing in. This is the journey of an artist attempting to separate who she is from her art from: whether she's walking an urban street or waiting for a plumber, she's trailed by the perpetually leaping shadow of dance.
Limited Edition Japanese Stab-binding
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“[This] work is ASTONISHING. I’ve never read anyone who could capture the reality of what it is to be a dancer in such a guttingly raw, visceral way—no glorification or pastel sugary fluff that typically accompanies attempts to reveal the daily workings of the ballet world. This can only come from an insider’s view, and someone who is not afraid to make the grotesque and deeply dark parts familiar. There were so many moments while reading that my whole body responded because [these] words reminded my cells what they went through decades ago, or still do today. [These] poems are so detailed and nuanced that they refuse to do what work about dance typically does: paint with one wash, one remote and glittery perspective. Disassembling A Dancer is delicious yet challenging reading, particularly for a dancer, because if forces us to see everything we have struggled through laid out starkly on paper. I think that makes it important reading. So many of us tuck these realities and memories away into protected little subconscious pockets. We need to see them exposed and acknowledge them. I hope this book reaches a wide audience. It’s WONDERFUL.”
From Jennifer Nichols
(lead choreographer for the Netflix series, Tiny Pretty Things).
The poet here knows her subject intimately, and the language of this art and its abuse on each body part is beautiful and deeply rendered. As judges, we could not resist – not the triumph, nor the grief so essential to the dancer being disassembled, one pained joint by one broken coccyx. Those twenty-six pairs of pointe shoes she gets rid of, that final pair of red shoes fastened to her feet.
The poems in Disassembling A Dancer are en pointe, the language bruised and striking. What at first surprised us with the density of the lines and text, delighted with the evocative language of the dancer, the body, broken, and the accompanying metaphors – “Brick those quads … not a fat-jiggle, not a teaspoon of Jell-O”.
MORE PRAISE FOR DISASSEMBLING A DANCER
Kyeren Regehr’s hypnotic, harrowing leap-and-spin through the dark story of dance mercilessly recounts and performs its brutal costs, severing ballet from any remnant myths of delicacy. Her lines, honed like a dancer’s physique, hold and heal the damaged body and psyche, reclaiming the powerful, muscular beauty of controlled movement.
Kyeren Regehr gives us the body locked in the torment of beautiful movement in this insider’s revelation of a dancer’s life. Her language – trim, muscled, momentumed – soars. The sequence is unforgettable.
The art of ballet is as unnatural as it is sublime. As though told from a disembodied eye, Regehr’s remarkable poems guide us, without apology, into the visceral. They make us ache, sweat, suffer silently, go hungry, and transcend the self altogether. A unique and rare visit by a unique and rare poet to an elite world.
Intense and sensual, Disassembling A Dancer catalogues the life of a ballerina with music, grace, colour, drama and more than a little humour. Regehr’s language is mesmerizing.
READ AN EXCERPT
Begin with your feet. Those thirty-six boned Da Vinci machines, agile heels of lychee skin, veiny blue-sky arches, wipe. Between each toe tenderly as a baby’s lips, blisters blooming like bubbled seaweed burst, dab with tea tree. Don’t look
at the persistent meta-tarsal bruise: darkly flowered foot, sepaled iris pointing its perpetual stamen towards the ankle, flex it. Admire the tenderloin bulge of your tibialis anterior, shins stubbled tight with the pleasure burn, wobble the wineskin horseshoeing the knee. Other one still good. Brick those quads, those marching quads, drill-sergeant quads, punch the rigid muscle-cement: not a fat-jiggle, not a teaspoon of Jell-O (or crème Brule, pavlova), plié. Part your thighs, Lolita petals the sleek wings of an orchid. Because ballet wants
Clara, Juliet, Giselle, cowry tush, and a hollowed middle. Climb the hallowed staircase (sanded soapstone ribs, melamine ribs, hand-pulped lavender paper ribs), stop at the breasts. Look back, last month to your sister’s six-sectioned brioche-belly, breaking the rules, bunching her body-building muscles tight as a sphincter, resisting the call for length. And when you asked for tips that day, hints on hyper-definition, she slid the kitchen curtain closed, peeled her halter up to her armpits and said:
I make sacrifices—
two nippled icing bags, a pair of withered party balloons disembodied from her taut musculature. No lie to soften such a moment. Begin again with your hair: a platinum tutu of satin straw, dripping. Down your swan of sylph-skin, your symphony of visible bones, vibrating. Vertebrae. Scapula. Clavicle. Sternum. Whip
the towel round your neck, cup each breast (with carpal claws, phalanges), a shade innocent for the sought after champagne glass, but not too far gone.
Inventory after Showering
The prose poem above, along with five others from the book, first appeared in Grain Magazine, issue 38.1, edited by Sylvia Legris. The original title was "Requiem for a Dancer", and while working on edits with Sylvia for this sequence, I glimpsed trails leading to a larger narrative.
Ballerine Monica Piloni 2007
Monica Piloni is a Brazilian sculptor who I have admired for a decade. When I first stumbled upon this image online I fell instantly in love. I'd recently completed the initial six-poem sequence, and I hoped that one day I might publish a longer version with this art on the cover. (Yes, I feel pretty lucky to see this dream realized!)
Here as portion of an essay from Mario Ramerio about Monica's work:
"...Monica Piloni's work seems to evoke the forces that act upon bodies, through an interweaving between appearance and essence, fact and fiction. The beauty of the female bodies in the artist's work is remarkable, although they appear to have undergone some kind of mutation, or effects of tension, showing a state of disequilibrium in well-modelled forms, but open to some sort of deviation. The female body is always that of a character who mirrors herself, a kind of echo that insists on reverberating in the body itself, as if this character were an unfolding of some interiority that cannot be known..."
Discover more about Monica here:
A Dancer's Backbone Lindsay Beal 2021
When I first conceived of Disassembling A Dancer as a chapbook, I asked Lindsay Beal, a Victoria-based visual artist whose art I deeply admired, to envision a prototype with me. After reading and re-reading the manuscript, Lindsay created several pieces of absolutely gorgeous visual art based on my character and her story. Lindsay then crafted my narrative-in-poetry into a book housed in a handmade satin-lined wooden box. Each richly textured page had to be removed, unfolded, and carefully handled in order to engage with the content, thus creating a physical experience of "disassembling", where the art appreciator's own body became part of the tactile journey. It was an astonishing objet d'art, a treasure to hold and disassemble.
Although the poetry and art was accepted by JackPine Press, the work was not completed due to personal circumstances. Fortunately, Diana Hayes of Raven Chapbooks, and book designer, Patricia Walker, were both keen to include two of Lindsay's beautiful pieces of work.
Discover more about Lindsay here:
DANCE INTERNATIONAL MAGAZINE!
A little dance history from me...
Photo: Regina Akhankina
Before devoting myself to a writing career, I danced. Mostly on the fringes of the dance and theatre world, and not as a member of the corps de ballet... everything from ballroom floorshows to avant garde movement theatre, from musical Shakespeare to improv—I once taught an improv company how to briefly perform every style of dance we could think of in the most authentically funny way possible. I earned my Variety Artist industry card as the lead role in a pantomime (a dancing elf in pointe shoes). And because my pre-dance body was born knock-kneed and pigeon-toed (ballet was prescribed as a remedy), I was plagued by injuries and didn't last long professionally—I still carry many of those injuries. I did teach though, A LOT: ballet, floor barre, ballroom, Latin, jazz, movement for actors... and choreographed quite a bit, mostly musical theater.
As you can see from the photograph above, I hoarded several pairs of ballet shoes from my teaching days (I adored teaching ballet). In fact, when I dragged out my old dance box, I found thirteen pairs of dance shoes: the gold-glittered three-inch Latin shoes (on my feet, above), ribboned tap shoes, flamenco shoes, and the "high-backed Bloch character shoes" that make two cameo appearances in the book (leather half-moons snipped out at the Achilles, black dye badly scuffed). As well as three pairs of pointe shoes, various ballet flats and teaching shoes, and a pair of unmarred satin slippers (sigh.)
While the narrative and its details are drawn from or inspired by my dance experience, primarily back in the nineties, most of the story is spun from imagination, as is my dancer-protagonist. (However, many of the injuries are my own.)