Renée Nicholson: Fierce and Delicate



ON BIG BLEND RADIO: Acclaimed author, writer, and poet Renée K. Nicholson discusses her memoir, “Fierce and Delicate: Essays on Dance and Illness.” Watch here in the YouTube player or download the podcast on PodBean, or SoundCloud.


Renée Nicholson’s professional training in ballet had both moments of magnificence and moments of torment, from fittings of elaborate platter tutus to strange language barriers and unrealistic expectations of the body. In “Fierce and Delicate” (WVU Press) she looks back on the often confused and driven self she had been shaped into—always away from home, with friends who were also rivals, influenced by teachers in ways sometimes productive and at other times bordering on sadistic—and finds beauty in the small roles she performed. When, inevitably, Nicholson moved on from dancing, severed from her first love by illness, she discovered that she retained the lyricism and narrative of ballet even as she negotiated life with rheumatoid arthritis.

An intentionally fractured memoir-in-essays, “Fierce and Delicate” navigates the traditional geographies of South Florida, northern Michigan, New York City, Milwaukee, West Virginia, and also geographies of the body—long, supple limbs; knee replacements; remembered bodies and actual. It is a book about the world of professional dance, and also about living with chronic disease, about being shattered yet realizing the power to assemble oneself again, in a new way.

RENEE K. NICHOLSON splits her artistic pursuits between writing and dance with scholarship in narrative medicine. She is Associate Professor and Director of the Humanities Center at West Virginia University. She was the 2011 Emerging Writer-in-Residence at Penn State-Altoona, 2018 recipient of the Susan S. Landis Award for Distinguished Service to the Arts (WV Governor’s Arts Awards), the 2019 winner of the Outstanding Public Service Award from the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences (WVU), and the 2020 Winner of the Nicholas Evans Award for Excellence in Advising (WVU). Her books include two collections of poetry, Roundabout Directions to Lincoln Center and Post Script; a memoir-in-essays, Fierce and Delicate: Essays on Dance and Illness; and the anthology Bodies of Truth: Personal Narratives on Illness, Disability, and Medicine.  More at

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About the Author:

RENEE K. NICHOLSON splits her artistic pursuits between writing and dance with scholarship in narrative medicine.

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