A Midnight Dance
Joanna Davidson Politano
Sept 7, 2021
A Midnight Dance by Joanna Davidson Politano brings to life a mystery involving the ballet. But the plot has more than a mystery. As with many ballet romances, there are tragedies. Combining history and the ballet culture during the 1830s, readers get suspense with a tinge of romance in a captivating plot.
The author noted, “The inspiration for this book was my then four-year-old daughter who loved the ballet. I decided to be invested in something she loved. We went to live performances together. She is now 7 ½ years old and loves it even more. She does performances for the family. She inspired me to bring into the story life and color. This was a case of daughter influencing mom.” I spent ten months just researching. I read many books and articles about the Victorian ballet theater and found how different it is from the modern ballet. Ella was inspired by the 1830s real-life dancer Marie Taglioni, an Italian dancer. She shaped the ballet into what we think of it today. Then it was more acrobatic, and she made it more graceful artful, beautiful, and symmetric.”
The story begins with the main character, ballet dancer Ella Blythe, finding some very old, but famously well-known crimson ballet slippers. She is determined to keep these safe, yet she comes home and finds them missing. Could one of her rivals in the ballet company, who are not known to be kind to each other, have taken them? The slippers had some significance because, alongside Ella’s story is the story of a famous ballerina, Delphine Bessette who is thought to have died one night in a fire at the theatre and had owned the slippers. The mystique surrounds the missing slippers, the life and death of Bessette, as well as the backstory of Ella’s mother.
Dispersed throughout the book are tidbits about the ballet in mid-1830s London. Readers find out how Ella can be trained in ballet due to a scholarship despite her lowly circumstances. “I spent ten months just researching. I read many books and articles about the Victorian ballet theater and found how different it is from the modern ballet. Ella was inspired by the 1830s real-life dancer Marie Taglioni, an Italian dancer. She shaped the ballet into what we think of it today. Then it was more acrobatic, and she made it more graceful artful, beautiful, and symmetric.”
There is also a love triangle between Ella, the main ballet dancer Phillipe, and Jack the choreographer. Each are searching for their own identity and the need to belong. Ella is a very relatable character with insecurities, past mistakes, and struggles with perfectionism. Readers see her growth from being naive, somewhat narrow-minded, and judgmental to a mature level-headed thinking person. Jack has a bold, optimistic outlook on life even though so many tragedies marred his past. Phillipe appeared to be more of someone who has insecurities but hides them with an egotistical manner.
“Originally, I had Phillipe as the hero. But then I started to go back and forth between him and Jack. After the scene with the conversation between the heroes I made up my mind who the true hero would be. Jack pushes Ella quite a bit. He is the wild card and like the circus is much more sensational than the ballet. Phillipe is like the ballet, reserved and concise, with poise and control.”
This is an inspirational story full of mystery, suspense, jealously, betrayal, some romance, and vivid descriptions of the ballet. Readers feel this plot is like a well-choreographed dance full of twists and turns.