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Dancing in the Dark by Robyn Bavati

Dancing in the Dark (original 2010; edition 2013)

by Robyn Bavati

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466251,994 (3.88)None
Title:Dancing in the Dark
Authors:Robyn Bavati
Info:Flux (2013), Paperback, 336 pages
Collections:Your library, ebook, ARC
Tags:2012, YA, ballet, judaism, australia

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Dancing in the Dark by Robyn Bavati (2010)



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  cavlibrary | Nov 2, 2014 |
This book was wonderful. The main character is part of a ultra-orthodox Jewish family who has prescribed appropriate activities for women and girls. Dancing is not one of them. However, the main character's only desire is to learn ballet. ( )
  LaneLiterati | Apr 22, 2013 |
I requested this on NetGalley when I was in the mood for a darker contemporary novel. By the time it was approved though, that mood have moved on. So I was sure I wouldn't enjoy it, and set about reading it well ahead of time so I could be sure to be finished by the day it needed to be reviewed. What actually happened: I flew through this book in a day and thoroughly enjoyed it! Dancing in the Dark opened my eyes to two worlds I have no experience with. Obviously, I know no Haredi Jewish people, and if you know me at all, you know I am no dancer.

The opening of Dancing in the Dark is a small prologue wherein our heroine, Ditty, is forced to chose between dance and her father. She's told that if she leaves for her performance, she is not to go back. It's painful to watch the struggle, but before we know what she decides, the prologue is over and the book begins. We are taken through Ditty's five-year-long journey of discovering the ballet and eventually enrolling in secret classes behind her parents' backs.

There are two ways to look at this novel, I think, and in my opinion, that will decide whether or not you like it. The story is about a girl who is raised in a very orthodox Jewish family. Throughout the novel she finds her passion and against her parents' wishes, decides to pursue those dreams. If you are a religious person who very much values the same things Ditty's family values, then you might not like Ditty as a character. That was just the opposite for me.

For me, Ditty, short for Yehudit, was a wonderful heroine. I thought she showed great tenacity and strength. It was a pleasure to read about her discovering herself through ballet. In her culture, she is not allowed even the most mundane things we take for granted: no jeans and t-shirts, no TV, no bacon (no bacon!), no classes with boys, no singing in front of boys. Her family is very, very religious, and holds firmly to the Jewish laws of the Torah. So through my eyes - my atheist eyes - seeing Ditty strike out against those oppressive rules was strong. For some, though, they may not like how she deceived her parents and went against her holy texts.

I'm not really sure if Ditty loses her faith throughout this book. By the end, it's clear she still considers herself Jewish, but not in the ultra-orthodox way she was before. I've never really read any books where the young protagonist struggles with her faith, so this was a new experience for me, and one I particularly enjoyed. Also learning about all the parts of Ditty's Haredi culture were fascinating, too. I'm terribly uneducated when it comes to Judaism - this is something I'll have to remedy soon.

There were a few drawbacks that really kept me from rating this higher, though. For one, Dancing in the Dark felt long at times. There were instances that felt very repetitive to me, and that took away some enjoyment. Also, there wasn't any character I could really connect to on any deep level. But I know that's because of me, and what I'm bringing to the book, not the other way around.

In the beginning, the author, Robyn Bavati, talks about how there will be words and phrases that the readers won't know, and boy was she right. The text was full of italicized words I had either never heard before or didn't know how to pronounce, or both. There was a glossary at the end of the text, but constantly flipping back and forth was a hassle, so I just read on. It wasn't hard to figure out what the words meant though - Bavati expertly wove them in with context so I never felt lost.

I highly recommend Dancing in the Dark. It's not only a fantastic ballet book, filled with wonderful descriptions of Ditty's schooling, but it's also an eye-opener in many other ways. I learned a lot about ultra-orthodox Jewish culture. Ditty was a wonderful heroine, with a believable voice. The story will also speak to those who struggle with their faith, or who struggle with reconciling their own wants with their parent's wishes.
( )
  PrettyDeadly | Mar 31, 2013 |
A dramatic and moving story about a girl who folows her dream and finds herself questioning everything she believes in. ( )
  AnnMaryVincent | Mar 2, 2013 |
Ditty has a love, a forbidden one, but for once it is not boys. It is ballet. Her parents don't approve, so she dances in secret, and falls more and more in love and becomes more talented. How deep can she get while keeping her secrets and the essence of who she is?
Ditty was quite a character. I could feel her love for dancing across the page as well as the pain and conflict of slowly letting go of her beliefs and others that she holds dear in order to pursue what she loves and what she is good at.
The sense of family in this one is unique. I appreciate how some of the parents are involved and some are not, and the degrees in between. We can see the effects of when the parents try to suppress their kids from doing what they wanted and loved and then ones who knew when to let go and be more hands off. I also appreciated the teachers' involvement in this story, when one in particular stepped up when she strictly did not have to.
I also appreciated the scope of friendship that I saw in this book. Ditty's closest friend Sarah is amazing, and how she covered for her friend and supported her even if she didn't agree really spoke to me. Then there is Emma from the dance company, how Robyn wrote her in, accepting Ditty but still asking questions like any teenager would. My favorite though, is probably Ditty's cousin Linda. I loved reading her character development and transformation, as well as her loyalty to Ditty throughout her changes.
At first all of the unfamiliar Jewish terms got to me, and I spent a lot of time flipping between bookmarks on my kindle, but eventually the most popular words worked their way into my head and I was able to read more seamlessly. There was time of course given to explaining and demonstrating what Ditty and her family practiced, and it was needed because I for one, had no idea the scope of haredi (the ultra conservative Jewish beliefs and practices of her family.) It really molded the family and what they said, did and interacted with. Every facet of their lives really. I never felt like I was being preached at though, it just seemed matter of fact and way of life for the characters, and it was sad and realistic at the same time the conversations Ditty had with Linda about questioning if this is the only way to live and watching Ditty give up pieces of herself and her religion in order to dance. But, ultimately she was learning what she believed and following her heart.
Bottom line: Powerful transformation of a young girl into a beautiful dancer and what she had to give up to get there.
  brandileigh2003 | Jan 11, 2013 |
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Passionate about ballet, Ditty Cohen signs up for dance class despite being forbidden to by her Orthodox Jewish parents, then must face the consequences when the two world collide after five and a half years of study.

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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