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  • Albany Berkshire Ballet

Dance brings book to life at Hamagrael Elementary

DELMAR — Children’s author David Ira Rottenberg wasn’t much older than the school kids before him when he started writing.

“On my fourth-grade report card my teacher wrote how I enjoyed writing stories to my friends,” said Rottenberg, shortly after reading from “Gwendolyn, the Graceful Pig” to students at Hamegrael Elementary.

The reading was part of a joint performance between the author and a troupe of ballet dancers from the Albany Berkshire Ballet. As Rottenberg read the story of Gwendolyn, a pig, working her way towards becoming a ballerina, the Berkshire Ballet brought the story to life.

“Gwendolyn, the Graceful Pig” is the first book in the popular Gwendolyn series. It tells the tale of Gwendolyn and Omar, two best friends who dream to dance and join the football team, respectively. The plot shares what happens when perseverance and support from friends can help one overcome perceived obstacles.

Rottenberg has authored several books, including two novels and three business books.

The Columbia University graduate has written for publications such as Boston Magazine and the Boston Globe. His poems have appeared in poetry magazines throughout the United States. “Gwendolyn, the Graceful Pig” is not his first attempt at writing about ballet. He’s also penned “Soldiers of Beauty,” a collection of poems about the ballet, too.

Rottenberg has teamed with the Albany Berkshire Ballet for the past several years, an idea conceived through fear no one would show at one of his readings for the book. He invited a ballet dancer to a Barnes and Noble reading, and he said nearly 100 visitors appeared. The pairing was reminiscent of this story’s plotline, too.

Rottenberg’s visit to Hamagrael Elementary School on Thursday, Oct. 18 was the first stop in a tour through each of Bethlehem Central’s elementary schools. Similar tours take the Boston resident throughout New England in both the fall and spring.

A self-proclaimed fan of audiobooks, Rottenberg admits he is not a fan of authors reading from their own work. On his website, he describes it as a “bane” to his audiobook experience to hear an author attempt to read from his or her own work. He said the task requires more than just reading the words, but to be able to adapt the reader’s spoken voice to the book’s voice.

Rottenberg said he won’t ever do an audiobook of his own, but reading in front of children is a “fantastic” experience from which he won’t rob himself.

“The first time I did it, you hear all the children laughing,” he recalled, “and the dancers are like pixie dust — they just make the whole thing come alive.”

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