Delphine, Lindsay, and Marqaux were inseparable friends and fellow dancers at the Paris Opera Ballet. Now Delphine is back as a guest choreographer, hoping to make Lindsay the star dancer in her new work about Rasputin and the Tsarina Alexandra. But there are a lot of stumbling blocks to this show’s success, like Delphine’s old beaus Jock and Dmitri, Lindsay’s husband Daniel, and Natalie, the head of the company, who wants to push Delphine in a more feminist and modernist direction. So many secrets! So many betrayals! The Ballerinas is a page-turning story of friendship dynamics with an interesting take on the physical tolls and psychological abuses borne by women dancers. Sometimes the author blurbs seem out of left field, but in this case, the Jessica Knoll comparison and the Andrea Bartz recommendation lead readers in the right direction.— Daniel Goldin
December 2021 Indie Next List
“Female friendship and betrayal set against the intriguing milieu of ballet — where ambition is set against a ticking clock. The Ballerinas is a glittering story with compelling characters and an unexpected yet satisfactory twist.”
— Jann Griffiths, BookSmart, Morgan Hill, CA
Dare Me meets Black Swan and Luckiest Girl Alive in a captivating, voice-driven debut novel about a trio of ballerinas who meet as students at the Paris Opera Ballet School.
"Enthralling...irresistible." ––New York Times
"A standing ovation to this debut." ––E! News
Thirteen years ago, Delphine Léger abandoned her prestigious soloist spot at the Paris Opera Ballet for a new life in St. Petersburg––taking with her a secret that could upend the lives of her best friends, fellow dancers Lindsay and Margaux. Now thirty-six years old, Delphine has returned to her former home and to the legendary Palais Garnier Opera House, to choreograph the ballet that will kickstart the next phase of her career––and, she hopes, finally make things right with her former friends. But Delphine quickly discovers that things have changed while she's been away...and some secrets can't stay buried forever.
Moving between the trio's adolescent years and the present day, The Ballerinas explores the complexities of female friendship, the dark drive towards physical perfection in the name of artistic expression, the double-edged sword of ambition and passion, and the sublimated rage that so many women hold inside––all culminating in a twist you won't see coming, with a magnetic cast of characters you won't soon forget.
About the Author
Rachel Kapelke-Dale is the co-author of GRADUATES IN WONDERLAND (Penguin 2014), a memoir about the significance and nuances of female friendships. The author of Vanity Fair Hollywood's column "Advice from the Stars," Kapelke-Dale spent years in intensive ballet training before receiving a BA from Brown University, an MA from the Université de Paris VII, and a PhD from University College London. She currently lives in Paris.
Praise for The Ballerinas:
"The ways in which women torture their bodies in pursuit of creative dreams make for enthralling fictional drama. This terrain proves irresistible in The Ballerinas, a debut novel set in the hothouse atmosphere of the Paris Opera Ballet academy as three students grow up, compete, forge friendships and embark on a trail of destruction...Kapelke-Dale has thought through the larger picture, and examined how trauma and asymmetries of power derail so many dancers."
––The New York Times
"Echoes of Black Swan and part Luckiest Girl Alive"
"This highly readable, dramatic look behind the curtains is an unqualified success."
"A well-crafted thriller for fans of Megan Abbott's."
"Deliciously observed emotional tangles"
"The Ballerinas deftly uses the professional dance setting to explore the complexities of female friendships and the lingering impacts of ballet's patriarchal culture as it hurtles toward the bloody conclusion promised on the first pages."
"You’ll never look at ballet the same."
"There's something so tantalizing about the combo of the pristine nature of ballet mixed with the messy drama of a thriller."
"A confident, enthralling debut...a stellar mystery."
“[A]n unflinching, unapologetically feminist glimpse into the world of professional ballet.”
"Forever shaped by their friendship and the most grueling artform in the world, three friends navigate love, secrets, ambition and the pursuit of artistic perfection within the hallowed walls of the world’s most prestigious ballet school and company. Engrossing, deft and insightful, I loved The Ballerinas—from its provocative opening pages, to its blistering climax, to its exactly right final scenes."
––Cathy Marie Buchanan, New York Times bestselling author of The Painted Girls and Daughter of Black Lake
"Wonderfully atmospheric, The Ballerinas is a twirling dream of a story exploring the sacrifices and pain of creation, the shrinking of women and the pressure of always being on show."
––Araminta Hall, author of Our Kind of Cruelty
"A dark and searing exploration of bodily autonomy, friendship, memory and loss set in the gritty, bloody world of elite ballet. I was hooked from the first line of this shimmering debut."
––Ella Berman, author of The Comeback
"There is a moment in The Ballerinas when Rachel Kapelke-Dale describes ballet as a place where women “both reign and serve.” If you are anticipating competition and sabotage here, you won’t be wrong—but to distill this novel to its rivalries is to do it a great injustice. The Ballerinas is an incisive examination of a place and institution that both depends upon and diminishes women; Kapelke-Dale has crafted a sharp exploration of bodies, art, and agency that left me wondering what it means to be an audience member, and what it means to be seen."
––Emily Layden, author of All Girls
"Kapelke-Dale's debut comes roaring out of the wings with all the grace and strength of a prima ballerina. Deftly constructed and crackling with tension, The Ballerinas is a stunner of a novel, with electric prose and careful observations on loyalty, ambition, power, and rage within the crucible of intense female friendships. I tore through this unforgettable thriller—and I'll never look at professional dance the same way again."
––Andrea Bartz, author of We Were Never Here
"Rachel Kapelke-Dale's The Ballerinas is an engrossing, smart, and page-turning novel about sacrifice in the name of art. The characters at the heart of The Ballerinas hold their loyalty to loved ones up against their loyalty for ballet, measuring how much of themselves and their bodies they are willing to offer. Kapelke-Dale's writing confronts questions of aging, violence, and friendship to confront ballet's allure and brutality. The result is a novel filled with grace and strength."
––Ellen O'Connell Whittet, author of What You Become in Flight
"Hypnotic, electrifying, and propulsive, The Ballerinas is a completely unmissable debut. Its extraordinary power comes not only from the gorgeous writing and searing social commentary, but how it portrays women's relationships with our bodies, our ambition, and our collective desires. Kapelke-Dale is a phenomenal talent, and this novel is imbued with all the grace, elegance, and fierceness that dancers embody."
––Laurie Elizabeth Flynn, bestselling author of The Girls Are All So Nice Here