Dance Advice

Leanne Benjamin’s ‘Built for Ballet’: A look inside an extraordinary life and career

Leanne Benjamin in Emeralds.
Leanne Benjamin in Emeralds. © Johan Persson, courtesy the Royal Opera House. Source: Dancetabs

Leanne Benjamin’s autobiography with Sarah Crompton, Built for Ballet, reveals the extraordinary life and career of one of the world’s most important ballet dancers of the past 50 years. 

Leanne Benjamin's book, 'Built for Ballet', published by Melbourne Books.
Leanne Benjamin’s book, ‘Built for Ballet’, published by Melbourne Books.

Benjamin was born and raised in the central Queensland town of Rockhampton in a tightly knit hard-working Catholic family. At the age of three, she attended her first ballet class and at 16, she was accepted into The Royal Ballet School in London, and at 18 danced her first leading role on the Royal Opera House stage in the school’s performance of Giselle that catapulted her to a stellar career.

Built for Ballet takes you behind the scenes to find a real understanding of the pleasure and the pain, the demands and the intense commitment it requires to become a ballet dancer. It’s a book for ballet-lovers which will explain from Benjamin’s personal point of view, how ballet has changed and is changing. 

It’s a book of history: she was first taught by the people who created ballet in its modern form and now she works with the dancers of today, handing on all she has known and learnt. 

But it’s also a book for people who are just interested in the psychology of achievement, how you go from being a child in small town Rockhampton in the centre of Australia to being a power on the world’s biggest stages — and how an individual copes with the ups and downs of that kind of career. 

Leanne Benjamin. Photo by Roy Round.
Leanne Benjamin. Photo by Roy Round.

It’s a story full of big names and big personalities — Margot Fonteyn, Rudolf Nureyev, Kenneth MacMillan, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Darcey Bussell, Carlos Acosta to name a few. President Clinton, Michelle Obama, Diana Princess of Wales and David Beckham all make an appearance. 

But it is also a book of small moments of insight — what makes a performance special, how you recover from injury, illness and childbirth, how you combine athletic and artistic prowess with motherhood, how a different partner can alter everything, what it’s like to fall over in front of thousands of people, and what it’s like to triumph. Above all, Built for Ballet seeks to explain, in warm and human terms, why women get the reputation for being difficult in a world where being a good girl is too much prized. And what they can do about it. 

For more information and to purchase a copy, head to melbournebooks.com.au/products/leanne-benjamin-built-for-ballet.

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