“Wilson has a gift for telling stories…Rebel on Pointe is one terrific read that fans of all ages will enjoy for its clear storytelling, historic perspectives and histrionic characters from someone who lived to see the status of women greatly elevated, and who was herself a part of that story.”—Critical Dance
“Touching and beautiful; Lee Wilson is an inspiration to us all for finding a passion in life and moving beyond familial pressures and societal norms.”—Zippora Karz, former soloist, New York City Ballet
“The culture of the ballet world is divulged in all its glorious detail. Wilson’s compelling account of her training and career shows the true courage and persistence this profession requires.”—Ali Duffy, founder and choreographer, Flatlands Dance Theatre
“Lee brings to her writing the same keen intelligence she brought to her dancing. It is a joy to relive some of the important moments of ballet history with her and to empathize as she uses her dance career to gain the independence and freedom she perceived as lacking for women like her mother only one generation earlier.”—Maina Gielgud, former director, The Australian Ballet
“Dance is a gift.”
We are pleased to announce the publication of Rebel on Pointe: A Memoir of Ballet and Broadway. In this uplifting memoir, Lee Wilson describes how she grand jetéd from the stifling suburbia of the 1950s, a world of rigid gender roles, to the only domain where women and men were equally paid and equally respected—in grand, historic dance theaters and under the bright lights of the Broadway stage.
Rebel on Pointe immerses the reader in a remarkable and visionary world. It lifts the veil of myth surrounding legendary dance icons like George Balanchine, Rosella Hightower, Erik Bruhn, and Rudolf Nureyev to reveal the real men and women who have influenced and embodied the world of dance.
Lee Wilson danced for royalty in Europe, gun-toting revolutionaries in Algeria, American aristocrats at the Metropolitan Opera, and a galaxy of stars on Broadway. She reveals more about her life in dance in this Q&A.
Tell us how you first came to be interested in dance.
When I was four years old, I was pigeon-toed, and my pediatrician suggested dance lessons or corrective shoes, so my mother enrolled me in a tap class. I loved the sound of the taps. Even the words were fun to say: shuffle and flap.
After so many years deeply entrenched in the dance community, how involved have you chosen to stay now?
I still love to dance; I enjoy watching dance performances, and many of my friends are still working in the dance community. I hope dancers of all ages will enjoy reading my book.
Of all the shows you danced in, what was your favorite and why.
Hello, Dolly! has a special place in my heart because it was my first Broadway show, but I also loved dancing in Oklahoma!, Carousel, and A Chorus Line.
What do you hope readers will enjoy the most about your book?
I hope readers will enjoy the ups and downs of my journey and vicariously experience the joy of dance, the thrill of working with great artists, and the wonder of seeing New York, Paris, Monte Carlo, and Algiers through the eyes of a teenage girl trying to find her place in the world.
Is there a particular dancer or show that inspired you to pursue dance yourself?
Margot Fonteyn was my idol, but I could also see myself dancing with Gene Kelly.
Who are your favorite living dancers that you jump at the chance to see?
I saw two performances this year that were particularly memorable: Natalia Osipova in Giselle and Alina Cojocaru in Liliom, but there are many wonderful dancers today, so I try to see as many companies as I can.
You’ve expressed before that Rebel on Pointe “celebrates the ability of a girl to find her own way in life by deciding what is important to her.” What was the biggest challenge you faced while trying to pursue your dreams?
During the 1950s, dance was the rare community in which men and women were equally respected and equally paid, so I studied for twelve years to become a dancer, but in 1962, when I was ready to begin my career, Ballet Theatre was moving out of New York, and Ballet Russe was on its last legs, so I traveled to Europe. But when I got to Europe, the de Cuevas Ballet, the star-studded touring company in France, had just dissolved, and I learned that the Royal Ballet couldn’t hire Americans unless they were stars. I really didn’t know how to get my career started. Fortunately, Rosella Hightower took me under her wing and gave me wonderful opportunities.
If you could give budding dancers one sentence of advice, what would it be?
Dance is a gift that will enrich your life whether or not you choose dance as a career.