I know I don't look like a ballerina, not in these dirty high-tops with my scabby knees. But inside there is a ballerina leaping to get out, leaping so hard that sometimes I think she'll bruise my heart.
- from Someday Dancer by Sarah Rubin, Page 105 and Page 9
Casey is a dancer, heart and soul. She can't help but skip down the streets of South Carolina and twirl-twirl-twirl whenever she feels like it. She's been in love with ballet since she was little, when her grandmother took her to see Cinderella and she could barely stay in her seat, eagerly pointing her toes and wishing she could "scramble down the aisle and dance with [the ballerinas]." Unfortunately, her family can't afford ballet lessons, so Casey regularly peeks in the window of a dance studio and copies the moves to the best of her ability.
When she learns about an open audition for The School of American Ballet in New York City, Casey saves up the money she earns working beside her mother as a cleaning lady at the hospital. With some assistance, she manages to make it to New York. The first audition leads to an opportunity that is better suited to Casey, something she hadn't even imagined, something she's never tried before: modern dance.
The year is 1959, and Casey's new instructor is Martha Graham, who is widely regarded as a pioneer in her field. Though, at times, I thought that more detail and description of movement and choreography would help readers who have never seen or experienced modern dance, I appreciated the moments when Casey expressed her love for dance and her gratitude for the opportunities she was given because I'm a dancer and actress myself. Those who know what it feels like to do well at an audition or on a test of any sort will understand this:
I walk out of Miss Martha's studio and down the street, floating towards the bus station. I don't care if people push past me, or shoot me the greasy eyeball for not scooting fast enough. I want to soak up every last second of the city. [...] I know I'll be back, but I want something to hold on to, something to remember while I'm waiting in the wings in Warren. When I get on the bus to go home, my heart is full... - Page 104
The beginning of chapter 29 on page 192 captures the experience of the first time you enter a beautiful theatre in which you're going to perform. It feels like if I open the door all the way I might let the magic out. Yes, yes, yes. For dancers, actors, singers, this can be our wardrobe to Narnia.
Anyone who was raised with love but very little money and had dreams that seemed out of reach due to that financial situation knows what it's like to walk in Casey's shoes. I hope that you dance if you want to, that you move when the music moves you, whether you're in toe shoes, tap shoes, sneakers, or your bare feet!
Related Booklist: I Am a Dancer