MY REVIEW 4.5 rating:
Michele Northwood has quite the story to tell. This is truly a memoir like none I’ve ever read before. Most memoirs tell a tale overcoming obstacles in one way or another, many that I’ve read are stories by people who have gone through such events that are utterly shocking and heart wrenching. In this story of a young dancer in Korea in 1989-1990, when tension was high as the north and south countries were on extremely rocky grounds, the experiences are not quite what one would expect! Michele’s days as a traveling dancer are unique, and full of rich culture and history.
Michele, as a part of a trio dance group, was thrown into some dodgy places and circumstances, mainly by their not so professional and caring agent. Mr. Lee sounded mostly like a careless mess to me, sending them from one low class establishment to another, refusing pay, and aside from the occasional dining out, he could care less about the health of his dancers.
One thing I really enjoyed about this book is the comrederee of Louise and Sharon, the other two girls in Michele’s dancing group. Full of ups and downs; the laughs mixed in with fighting tooth and nail both with and at times against each other was very heartfelt. Louise is full of spitfire and grit, which undoubtedly kept them all alive and fed at times, but it also got her into quite the scary situations, even beaten severely. Sharon, for the most part paved her own path, and went her own way more often than not. She had many boyfriends, and although she cared for both Michele and Louise, she wasn’t always attached at the hip to them. Michele’s point of view reads very smoothly and descriptively.
The trio never really knew when or where they were to dance, so they had to be ready and on their toes at all times. Sometimes they’d have several shows a night, being forced to change and prepare between sets in awful places and situations, and many times without pay. Sometimes they’d go days on end without a job, their cash supply dwindling to practically nothing. They modeled, they danced improv on podiums (which sounds awfully degrading, but based on much of the dancer’s lifestyles around them, it could have been so very much worse!), they were pursued, chased down, groped, and constantly looking over their shoulders.
At one point Michele lost a thousand dollar job, which was absolutely detrimental. At one point she and Louise had to visit a dentist, and after witnessing what Louise went through in this less than professional office, Michele decided to live with the pain and walk away.
Amidst the leaky roofs, abuse from crowds, and escaping the clutches of several potentially life altering situations from self-entitled men with no regard for women and their sexual independence, the trio also experienced beauty in Korea. They saw some beautiful places, met quite the variety of people, and they traveled to several cities. Michele’s sister also came to the country toward the tail end of Michele’s time there. Lucky, she was placed with a more credible manager, and her stay had much more potential for success right out the gate.
I really enjoyed this book, and my hat is off to Michele for her strength and fearless perseverance in a career that she clearly loved very much.
This is the true story of a young dancer, whose naive dream of working in the Far East turns into a nightmare.
She finds herself in a plethora of situations which she is ill-equipped to deal with. Dancing her way across South Korea with two friends, she is propositioned by the Mafia, turned away by the British Embassy, caught in a student riot, and taken to Korean brothels.
At times both shocking and humorous, this is the story of a timid young girl finding her voice and learning to stand up for herself in a male-orientated world of alcohol, sex and seedy nightclubs.