The Steps Guy Took to Write His Novel; A Collaboration between a Novelist and a Choreographer Has Resulted in a Dramatic Literary Dance Piece, as TAMZIN LEWIS Discovers

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GUY Mankowski's second novel, Letters From Yelena, began as a book about "the lost art of letter-writing".

The letters are written by Yelena, a psychologically damaged ballerina who tries to map out her mind through letters to a novelist called Noah.

A follow-up to his debut novel, The Intimate, this is an epistolary novel, a genre popular in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Guy says: "It is quite an old-fashioned form but letter writing is old-fashioned and I think it is a great way of communicating in a genuine fashion.

"People can express themselves through letters in a way they can't through everyday dialogue. I wanted to create a character who expresses herself completely through her letters, so if you are holding the book, in a way you are holding her."

Guy's novel deals with mental health, self-harm and abuse within the ballet community, and he was helped with his research by North East choreographer Dora Frankel.

He says: "I started going to the theatre to see dance and at one performance happened to be sat next to Dora.

"I asked to interview her and that formed the initial spine of the book."

After reading Guy's manuscript, Dora began to create a dance based on a pivotal scene from the book. This will be performed by Argentinian dancer Laila Sanz alongside a sound piece by Jeremy Bradfield at the launch of Guy's book tonight.

Dora says: "Guy began observing my choreographic process and digging deeper into my past and what makes me tick as an artist.

"This is the first time my creative process has been shared and it's really exciting. I've explored literary themes before but never worked directly with an author."

Guy, a psychologist who lives in Newcastle, was funded by Arts Council England to research the novel in the Russian city of St Petersburg. There he was given access to the Vaganova Ballet Academy where he interviewed young ballerinas. …


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