The trials and triumphs of ballet

TITLE  = BUNHEADS

AUTHOR = SOPHIE FLACK

GENRE = BALLET, DANCE

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 8 AND UP

This is an entertaining story about 19 year old ballet dancer, Hannah Ward. As a youngster she dreamed of being a ballerina and she has worked hard to become a member of the Manhattan Ballet Company. Leaving home at the tender age of 14, Hannah moved to NYC to devote herself to ballet. And here she learned about the rigours of life as a ballet dancer: the many hours of rehearsal, the nightly performances, not to mention the hours in the gym or at yoga classes, toning and strengthening the body. Plus all the competition: whilst many of the performers have a shared history – having danced from an early age and joined the company as a youngster – they are nevertheless all competing for similar roles. And it appears that the aim of all the members of the corps de ballet is to get a solo role; it is certainly Hannah’s aim, if not her obsession, for much of this novel.

Hannah is well aware of what she is giving up in her dedication to dance: she knows that most other 19 year olds are at college, spreading their wings, having fun at parties. She rues the fact that even though she has lived in NYC for the last 5 years she really doesn’t know the city – having had little spare time to explore beyond the boundaries of the theatre where she rehearses and performs seemingly all year round.

This is brought into sharp focus for Hannah when she meets Jacob Cohen a part-time musician and student at NYC. Will Hannah’s dediaction to ballet prevent her from having a chance with Jacob?  To add a little spice to this romantic dilemma, Hannah is being courted by a wealthy young patron of the Company.

As a former ballet dancer herself, the author (Sophie Flack) clearly has first-hand experience of the trials and tribulations as well as the joys of dance. Lovers of ballet are sure to enjoy this novel with its frequent use of dancing terminology but equally, those who do not have a dance background will enjoy the human story behind the dance: the struggle to find one’s place in the world and the courage needed to change tack.

Recommended (dma) ****