Raising the Barre (Hardcover)

Big Dreams, False Starts, and My Midlife Quest to Dance the Nutcracker

By Lauren Kessler

Da Capo Press, 9780738218311, 272pp.

Publication Date: November 24, 2015

List Price: 24.99*
* Individual store prices may vary.


Like generations of little girls, Lauren Kessler fell in love with ballet the first time she saw The Nutcracker, and from that day, at age five, she dreamed of becoming a ballerina. But when she was twelve, her very famous ballet instructor crushed those dreams--along with her youthful self-assurance--and she stepped away from the barre.

Fast forward four decades. Lauren--suddenly, powerfully, itchingly restless at midlife--embarks on a "Transcontinental Nutcracker Binge Tour," where attending a string of performances in Chicago, New York, Boston, and San Francisco reignites her love affair with the ballet--and fuels her girlhood dream.

What ensues is not only a story about The Nutcracker itself, but also an inside look at the seemingly romantic--but oh-so-gritty--world of ballet, about all that happens away from the audience's eye that precedes the magic on stage. It is a tale told from the perspective of someone who not only loves it, but is also seeking to live it. Lauren's quest to dance The Nutcracker with the Eugene Ballet Company tackles the big issues: fear, angst, risk, resilience, the refusal to "settle in" to midlife, the refusal to become yet another Invisible Woman. It is also a very funny, very real look at what it's like to push yourself further than you ever thought you could go--and what happens when you get there.

About the Author

Lauren Kessler is an award-winning author and immersion reporter. She is the author of seven nonfiction books, including Counterclockwise: My Year of Hypnosis, Hormones, Dark Chocolate, and Other Adventures in the World of Anti-aging, as well as My Teenage Werewolf: A Mother, a Daughter, a Journey Through the Thicket of Adolescence. Her journalism has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Los Angeles Times Magazine, O, the Oprah Magazine, Ladies' Home Journal, Woman's Day, Prevention, and Salon. She also directs the graduate program in narrative journalism at the University of Oregon. laurenkessler.com