Rivalries and power plays roil a San Francisco ballet troupe in this romance.
As a 24-year-old soloist at New York City’s dazzling American Ballet Theatre, April Manning is near the top of the ballerina heap when suddenly she loses everything: Her mother dies, and a Bolshoi-trained phenomenon steals her role and her boyfriend, Vincent, a handsome ABT dancer. April decamps to the seemingly friendlier climes of San Francisco’s West Coast Ballet Theatre, where her pal Anders Gunst, the brilliant new artistic director, makes her a principal. Alas, WCBT proves to be a snake pit. Anders faces a mutiny led by the domineering, Machiavellian dancer Dmitri Petrenko. Meanwhile, April struggles—the crowd boos her after one performance—and feels that she’s in cutthroat competition with everyone from the senior ballerinas to the company’s 16-year-old prodigy; in addition, she becomes the obsession of a sinister ex–WCBT ballerina fallen on hard times. The one bright spot is her romance with Russell, a nerdy childhood friend from Omaha who’s become the attractive director of a hot Silicon Valley startup. That relationship becomes complicated, though, when Vincent arrives to dance with April in Romeo and Juliet; he’s a superlative partner who makes her shine onstage but also a possessive, egomaniacal jerk. In this prequel to her Ballet Theatre Chronicles novels, Rose paints a vivid portrait of life in a cloistered dance company—one that’s seething with insecurities and antagonisms yet also capable of pulling together when the chips are down. April endures both the physical pain and social sacrifices required by her devotion to her craft, but she also basks in the sensual exhilaration of sublime performances, which Rose conveys in sharply observed but also exuberant prose: “See how you’re making my heart pound? I pantomimed, and took his hand, laying it on my chest….He lifted me and I draped myself over his shoulder with wanton abandon, every move imparting a feeling of joyous euphoria, absolute infatuation.”
A stimulating and entertaining tale in which passion and art intermingle.