Ballet Theatre Chronicles, Book 2
By Terez Mertes Rose
Contemporary [Women’s] Fiction
Rising ballet star Dena Lindgren’s dream career is knocked off its axis when a puzzling onstage fall results in a crushing diagnosis: a brain tumor. Looming surgery and its long recovery period prompt the company’s artistic director, Anders Gunst, to shift his attention to an overshadowed company dancer: Dena’s older sister, Rebecca, with whom Anders once shared a special relationship.
Under the heady glow of Anders’ attention, Rebecca thrives, even as her recuperating sister, hobbled and unnoticed, languishes on the sidelines of a world that demands beauty and perfection. Rebecca ultimately faces a painful choice: play by the artistic director’s rules and profit, or take shocking action to help her sister.
Exposing the glamorous onstage world of professional ballet, as well as its shadowed wings and dark underbelly, OUTSIDE THE LIMELIGHT examines loyalty, beauty, artistic passion, and asks what might be worth losing in order to help the ones you love.
Rebecca and Dena are sisters and each must face the biggest challenge of their life. Will it be enough? Will they meet all the demands of life and succeed on and off the stage.
Parts of this story leave you breathless with anticipation and parts leave you wanting more. There are some places where the dialogue needs a little fine tuning. However, the story and the characters are very well put together. I did really dislike Dena though. I wanted to jerk her baldheaded in places. This kept the story entertaining.
I always enjoy stories about ballet. I like to see if the author really knows anything about the craft. I have had many years of ballet training so, it is always interesting to see if there are any mistakes. I did not find any in the novel. The author hit it square on. The practicing, the terminology and the competition are very well done and true to form.
About the Author
Terez Mertes Rose is a writer and former ballet dancer whose work has appeared in the Crab Orchard Review, Women Who Eat (Seal Press), A Woman’s Europe (Travelers’ Tales), the Philadelphia Inquirer and the San Jose Mercury News. She is the author of Off Balance, Book 1 of the Ballet Theatre Chronicles (Classical Girl Press). She reviews dance performances for Bachtrack.com and blogs about ballet and classical music at The Classical Girl (www.theclassicalgirl.com). She makes her home in the Santa Cruz Mountains with her husband and son.
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ClassicalGrrl (@classicalgrrl)
When Anders Gunst, artistic director of the West Coast Ballet Theatre, told nineteen-year-old Dena Lindgren he was promoting her to soloist, all she could think was that she’d misheard him. They were standing backstage, post-performance, at San Francisco’s California Civic Theater. Partial lighting streamed from the overhead fixtures, casting the furthest wings in shadows. The stagehands, immersed in their nightly cleanup routine, swept the floor, inspected cables and called out to one another across the empty stage. Anders always spoke softly, and right then, it was hard to hear over their voices.
“I’m sorry,” she stammered, clutching and unclutching the towel she’d used to mop up her sweat from Arpeggio, the ballet she’d just finished. “I misunderstood what you said. Because you’re promoting my sister. Not me. Right?” She felt foolish even suggesting otherwise, like the newbie first-year corps dancer she was. At five-foot-two, she was a petite dancer, and right then she felt her smallness. Anders himself, while not particularly tall, was dressed tonight in a sleek charcoal Italian suit and tie that enhanced his refined looks and made him seem all the more intimidating, even as he smiled at her.
“No.” He shook his head. “It’s you I’m promoting to soloist.”
She began to shiver in her costume, a pale, glittery, silken tunic that clung damply to her skin. “That’s not possible. There’s just that one position open.”
“Yes.” Anders didn’t seem bothered by her aggrieved tone or the way everything about her had scrunched up in resistance.
“But… but,” she sputtered. “That wasn’t the plan.”
He chuckled. “I think, as the artistic director, I have a fairly good sense of what the plan should be.”
And still she stared at him, incredulous, unable to process it.
While he continued speaking, a part of her mind detached and hastily scrolled over the past two hours, this performance of Arpeggio, the unexpected triumph of it in the aftermath of the terrible news she and her older sister Rebecca had just received. Their parents were divorcing; their father already had plans to remarry. Dena hadn’t seen it coming, and this destruction of their family of four had devastated her. Rebecca, dancing Arpeggio too, had taken Dena by the shoulders in the dressing room, given her a shake, told her fiercely to take that pain and pour it into the performance. This crucial performance in which they both had soloist roles, even though they were both only corps dancers. The big, huge, this-could-be-career-changing opportunity for the two of them that they simply had to excel at.
They’d excelled, both of them. And now, by all rights, the career change belonged to Rebecca, three years Dena’s senior, in age and company status. The promotion was to be hers. Everyone in the company knew it.
“Anders,” she said, more vehement now. “What about my sister?”
Anders gave her a thoughtful nod. “Rebecca is a very strong dancer, graced with extraordinary beauty. You lack your sister’s looks—most of the girls do—but it’s that very omission that makes you a more interesting dancer to watch. You can embody a number of different moods and personas, all so decisive and convincing. You have a talent that draws eyes to you. Rebecca fits seamlessly into any ensemble she’s placed in. She blends in. You stand out. I see that now. To keep you in the corps would only hinder what’s flowing from you so naturally. Soloist rank is where I want you.”
He glanced over to the front of the backstage area where Ben, ballet master and assistant to the artistic director, was gesturing to his wristwatch. Anders looked at his own watch. “I’m expected over at L’Orange in ten minutes,” he told Dena. “I’ll leave you to your cleanup. Congratulations, again.”
The implications began to sink in. “Wait! How… how can I possibly tell her?”
A touch of impatience crossed Anders’ face. “Rebecca and I understand each other. I’ll have a word with her.”
He didn’t wait for her reply, but instead strode away to where Ben stood waiting, by the door with the green glowing “exit” sign above. The two of them disappeared from sight.
She remained there, rooted to the spot, still trying to process it all.