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Dancing in the Dark

Dancing in the Dark

4.2 4
by Robyn Bavati
When her life’s passion is forbidden, how much will Ditty risk to follow her dream? When Ditty Cohen first sees a ballet on TV, the beautiful, gravity-defying dancing captivates her. She’s instantly connected to the graceful performers, and realizes that her passion is to be a dancer. There’s just one problem: Ditty is from an ultra-orthodox


When her life’s passion is forbidden, how much will Ditty risk to follow her dream? When Ditty Cohen first sees a ballet on TV, the beautiful, gravity-defying dancing captivates her. She’s instantly connected to the graceful performers, and realizes that her passion is to be a dancer. There’s just one problem: Ditty is from an ultra-orthodox Jewish family and her parents forbid her to take dance lessons. Refusing to give up on her newfound love, Ditty starts dancing in secret. Her devotion to dance is matched only by her talent, but the longer Ditty pursues her dream, the more she must lie to her family. Caught between her passion and her faith, Ditty starts to question everything she believes in. How long can she keep her two worlds apart? And at what cost? Dancing in the Dark is the dramatic, inspiring story about a girl who discovers the trials and triumphs of pursuing her greatest dream.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In a subtle first novel about familial loyalties and individuality, 12-year-old Ditty has never questioned the strict teachings of her ultra-orthodox Jewish community, the Haredi; she knows her path in life leads to marriage. But when Ditty and her best friend Sarah find a (forbidden) TV hidden in Sarah's mother's closet, Ditty discovers ballet and is hooked: "Here was a power I had never seen before, a kind of haunting loveliness I had never imagined." With help, Ditty enrolls in dance classes and turns out to be quite gifted, rising in the ranks over the years, while wrestling with the conflict between her upbringing and her passion for dance. Set in Australia and filled with details about the Haredi, the novel moves slowly toward the inevitable confrontation when Ditty's parents discover her secret. The narrative is further enriched by the choices made by Sarah and Linda, as they navigate their own lives within the context of faith. It's an intriguing glimpse into a singular culture; the persuasive depiction of Ditty's internal conflicts distinguishes Bavati's debut. Ages 12-up. Agent: Bob Diforio, D4EO Literary Agency.
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School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—What if the very thing you were passionate about were forbidden by your family? This is the conundrum that Ditty Cohen has to face. Coming from an ultra-Orthodox Jewish family, she is expected to go to school and synagogue until she is old enough to be married and start a family. However, when she discovers ballet on TV, she knows she was born to do much more, and the story follows her from the time she is 12 until she is 17. Forced to keep her dancing lessons a secret from her disapproving family, she begins to wonder which is more important: passion or faith. The author gives an in-depth look at one aspect of Orthodox Judaism and how it can affect families. Although the religion plays a large role in the plot, Ditty's inspiring story will resonate with many people. It's an insightful look into the hardships that some young people must endure to find themselves, even at the risk of leaving everything they know behind. The theme of making sacrifices in order to pursue a dream is a universal one. An excellent debut novel.—Kimberly Castle-Alberts, Hudson Library & Historical Society, OH
Kirkus Reviews
Love of ballet clashes with the strict religious beliefs of a young teen's family. Ditty has been raised in a haredi community. These ultrareligious Jews focus their lives on following God's commandments as written in Jewish scripture. They are very insular, forsaking television, film and other cultural lynchpins. Among their immutable beliefs is that girls and women behave and dress modestly. Ditty's friend's mother has hidden a TV in her bedroom, though, and when the girls sneak in to watch it, she sees a performance of The Nutcracker and is hooked. Over the next few years, she manages to take classes, spinning a web of lies and deceit to her mother to cover her actions. She is quite talented, which leads to advanced classes on Saturday--in violation of the Jewish Sabbath. Finally, the lies are exposed, and Ditty must choose irrevocably between her family and ballet. Bavati traces a difficult path, on which Ditty increasingly questions her beliefs and sees them anew through the eyes of non-Jews. Readers should note that the ballet studio is not as strong a presence as the arena of religious conflicts. Glossaries of ballet terminology and Australian-isms would have been helpful to supplement the incomplete Hebrew/Yiddish glossary. A balletic variation on the familiar story of teen rebellion. (Fiction. 12 & up)

Product Details

North Star Editions
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.90(d)
HL750L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

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Meet the Author

Robyn Bavati (Melbourne, Australia) never did become a professional dancer, but she’s thrilled to have fulfilled her dream of becoming a writer. Dancing in the Dark is her first novel.

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Dancing in the Dark 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I never really thought about relegion as a setback until now. Wow amazing book that defines one persons inner battle with right and wrong, classic bavati. She takes a common story and shakes it up, re-inventing a whole new look at the classic "obey, obey, obey" story. Ditty is an admirable charachter, and this book make you want to tear your heart out. A definite mustread!!!!!!!!!
Sarah_UK1 More than 1 year ago
(Source: I received a digital copy of this book for free on a read-to-review basis. Thanks to Flux Books and Netgalley.) 17-year-old Yehudit (Ditty) is glad that she is Jewish, and glad that her life has a purpose, but she also knows that her life would be nothing without dance. One of 7 children, and part of a strict Jewish family, Ditty’s life is strictly structured, and she must abide by the Jewish laws and stipulations. She must always be dressed conservatively, she must always eat kosher food, she must not do anything on Saturdays which are Jewish rest days, and she must not spend time with boys who are not her relatives. The list of rules that Ditty must live with and abide by is endless. At the age of 12, Ditty asked her parents if she could learn ballet, and they forbade it. Ditty did it anyway but hid it, and as she learned more her love of dance grew. At 17, Ditty is a very talented dancer and wants to go to ballet school and to pursue a career as a dancer, but her parents have plans to have her married and having babies as soon as possible, as every good Jewish girl should. But Ditty isn’t sure that she wants to be Jewish any more. Can Ditty ever really be the dancer she wants to be? Can she defy her family to follow her dreams? And what else must she sacrifice to get what she wants? This was a lovely story, which although it was about religion wasn’t preachy. There was time given to talking about the rules, traditions, and laws by which Ditty’s family lived, but whilst Ditty believed everything that her parents had taught her, her love of dance and her not-quite-so-strictly-Jewish cousin Linda allowed her to question the things that she had been taught, and stretch her wings a little. I loved Ditty, she was such a good person, and I hated that her parents told her that she couldn’t do what she loved because of her religion. I understand that people have religious beliefs that rule certain things out, but it was just so unfair that religion could stop Ditty from dancing. Like her cousin said, how bad is dancing really? In the grander scheme of things dancing is not bad – wars are fought over religion, but not dance. I loved how Ditty grew during this book and developed her own ideas about things. She was so believing and accepting of everything her parents told her to start with, so much so that going against their teachings made her feel physically sick at times, but as she slowly did more and more things that they would disapprove of, she realised that nothing bad happened when she disobeyed the rules, and actually began to learn through finding her own way. Overall I found this book so inspiring, and I could almost feel the dance with Ditty. She went through so much, but she learned and gained so much too. A great YA story about religion and following your dreams. 8 out of 10.
BlkosinerBookBlog More than 1 year ago
      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. 
eternalised More than 1 year ago
When I first started reading this book, I thought it was a paranormal mystery for some reason. I had read the blurb, but because I’ve read several books concerning ballet that were paranormal as of late, and the cover looked suitable for a paranormal book, I was convinced there was going to be one or other paranormal element. I have no idea why though because when I reread the blurb, there’s nothing whatsoever to indicate anything out of the ordinary is going on. Anyway, paranormal or not, I enjoyed this book so much that after twenty pages I forgot I was in the mood to read paranormal at all, and instead focused on Ditty and her friends. The book didn’t stay that good, unfortunately. It started off great, but then made some time jumps a few times through, leaving out entire years of the character’s life, which made me feel more detached from Ditty. I wanted to get inside her head, but that didn’t work because she changed too quickly, grew older before I very well realized it. I would’ve preferred if the book focused on one year or maybe two of Ditty’s life instead of her entire journey into adulthood, because I had the feeling I was losing my grasp on her as a character. Even though she stays remotely the same from start to halfway through, I needed more detail to picture her growing up. Anyway, the story starts with Ditty Cohen, one of the several children in an orthodox Jewish family. They live by the old beliefs of the Torah, like resting on Sabbath, celebrating the Jewish holidays, and so on. There’s nothing wrong with that as far as Ditty is concerned. But her cousin Linda is modern orthodox, and a stark contrast to Ditty and her family. Linda wears tight-fitting jeans and short skirts, pierces her nose and ears and all other things you shouldn’t do, whereas Ditty walks around wearing heavy, shapeless dresses. But Ditty doesn’t mind her cousin being different as Linda is her favorite cousin. Linda doesn’t mind her orthodox family either, although she refuses to be like them. But the moment Ditty and her best friend Sara find a TV in Sara’s mom’s bedroom, things begin to change. Sara and Ditty watch the TV in secret, and when one day they find a ballet show, Ditty is hooked. She loves ballet. She goes to the library to find books about it and practises ballet in the bathroom every night. When she finds information about ballet classes, she decides to try them out, for a week. It would be a secret of course, but if it’s only a week, that might work. Right? Wrong. Because Ditty gets hooked on ballet. It becomes her life, her dream. She spends years and years practising ballet in secret, and then finally decides it’s time to come clean because she has no choice. But the quesiton remains if her orthodox parents will ever allow her to continue to dance… I liked Ditty although she was a pretty passive character. She doesn’t take matters into her own hands often, but I liked that her passion for ballet drove her to do so. She’s a convincing main character, and her feelings reflect the conflict going on outside: the conflict of her upbringing and community vs. ballet and the new friends she’s made there. I wish I got to know those friends more. They remained empty, personality-less, sketches of characters as opposed to real characters. The only characters truly developed besides Ditty were her friend Sara and Linda. I’m glad this book was set in a community I knew little to nothing about. I was confused about the time setting at first because everything seemed so old-fashioned I thought it was set in the 1970s or something, until I read about one character’s mobile phone. So the book is contemporary, but it doesn’t feel that way. I enjoyed reading Ditty’s journey, her love for ballet and her courage to stand up for herself. I felt angry at her parents most of the time. They wanted the best thing for their child but were convinced they were the only ones capable of making good choices related to the child’s life. I see this all too often, and every time it angers me. It’s not their life, but the child’s life, so the child ought to make those choices. The clash between orthodox and modern orthodox was apparent as well, and I liked this turmoil. The story is good, but it’s not magnificent either. It sketches a situation, a few years of Ditty’s life, but lacks detail to make the reader entirely involved. Nevertheless, I read it in one sitting and enjoyed it. If you’re a fan of YA contemporary stories, feel free to try this one out. It was an interesting read that taught me a thing or two.