A Dancer’s Dream

A Dancer’s Dream
Katherine Woodfine and Lizzy Stewart
Simon & Schuster

Recently out in paperback is this lovely story that combines history and fiction to present the story of The Nutcracker ballet from the viewpoint of Stana, a young dancer at the Imperial Ballet School, St Petersburg. In the run up to Christmas, Stana auditions and on account of her feeling for the music, and her imaginative expression, is selected for the leading role, Clara, in a brand new ballet, The Nutcracker.

Stana’s reaction to her selection is tempered with other concerns. She loves the chance rehearsals (overseen by the composer, Tchaikovsky, himself) bring to escape from worries about her older sister who is in hospital, but the worries are still there especially the cost of her treatment. She worries too about the reaction of her best friend who wanted to play the lead; and of course, is she up to the part? However, she also feels that if she dances well enough, her sister will recover, which is a powerful motivator as well as a huge responsibility.

Although she receives kindness and approval from Tchaikovsky, the first reviews for the ballet are disappointingly negative. ‘Stana’s magic chance to shine melted away’ we read. However, just when she’s feeling that nothing is working out as she hoped, she receives good news and a wonderful, surprising gift. Christmas will after all be brighter than any dream she might have had.

This magical book of kindness, friendship, determination and self-belief would make a smashing Christmas present for readers who already love the world of ballet or are yet to discover it.

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