Follow us in FACEBOOK Follow us in TWITTER Follow us in Youtube


Toni BentleyToni Bentley took her first ballet class at age four. She entered the School of American Ballet at age ten and studied there for eight years. At age seventeen she joined George Balanchine’s New York City Ballet where she performed for ten years. She is the author of “Winter Season: A Dancer’s Journal,” “Holding On to the Air: The Autobiography of Suzanne Farrell” (co-authored with Farrell), “Costumes by Karinska,” and “Sisters of Salome” — all named New York Times Notable Books. She has written essays and reviews for the New York Times Book Review, The New Republic, The New York Review of Books, Los Angeles Times, Arts & Antiques, Rolling Stone, Smithsonian, Dance Magazine, Allure, The Daily Beast, Vanity Fair, Vogue, CR Fashion Book, and BookForum. She has given talks at Harvard University, the Oscar Wilde Society, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University,the Philoctetes Society in New York and she will be a featured speaker at THiNK 2013 in Goa, India.

In 2004 HarperCollins published her fifth book, “The Surrender, An Erotic Memoir,” which was named one of the 100 Notable Books of 2004 by the New York Times, and one of the “Best Books of the Year” by Publishers Weekly (U.S. version). The book has been translated into eighteen languages. She was awarded a 2008 Guggenheim Fellowship and her story “The Bad Lion,” originally published in the New York Review of Books, was selected for “Best American Essays 2010” by editor Christopher Hitchens.

The one-woman play adaptation of “The Surrender,” adapted and performed by the Swiss-German actress Isabelle Stoffel, had its world premiere in Madrid in January 2012, followed by a sold-out run in January 2013 in Madrid at the Teatro María Guerrero in a production by the Spanish National Theatre. The play had its English-Language world premiere at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August 2013 followed by seasons in Buenos Aires and Barcelona in fall 2013.

Uncommon passion

This is a book that I thought would never be published, perhaps even should not be published not because of the “taboo” sexual subject — there is no subject not worthy of words — but because I did not know if I had managed to capture the crazy beauty of the obsession, the abyss into which I had fallen for over four years. In the midst of the most passionate, and unusual, love affair of my life – as he plunged into me I felt like a skinless child plunged into the center of a great spinning mystery – I kept notes in the attempt to understand and to survive such perilous desire.
 I learned many things: that lust can certainly lead to love, but also that I trust lust more than love. This is my failing I am told but it is in keeping with my training as a ballerina who worked every day for over twenty years starting at age four in the attempt to mold my body into an instrument capable of conveying beauty. I do not place any physical experience in life, including sex, as being “beneath” the life of the mind. In fact, I trust the physical more than anything else. It has always been through my body, through dancing as with sex, that I know things most deeply. For me, the physical is metaphysical and finding spirit through sodomy is paradox, sexualized, laced in irony.
 That “The Surrender” became a book, published first in America and then all over the world, and has now become alive again in three-dimensions in Isabelle Stoffel’s wonderful adaptation and performance is proof, if such were needed, that following one’s gut — in my case rather literally — is not just worthwhile, but is the route, however unusual, to true connection. And connection, as E. M. Forster, has written, is indeed everything. I connected with this man and now I connect, perhaps, with you.

Toni Bentley