"It's not dancing, it's stretching," said Simone. "To me, stretching's like breathing."
"Isn't dancing like breathing?" Hannah asked.
As in The Parent Trap, the girls never knew they had a twin sister until they happened to end up at the same summer camp. But instead of going to a typical outdoors camp, Simone and Hannah are enrolled at Candance summer school. Hannah has always loved dancing, but her parents see it as just a hobby; Simone's strict mother has high hopes for her dancing girl. Simone is extremely skilled but has become increasingly uncomfortable on stage in recent years, and she knows that she doesn't want to pursue a career as a dancer. Hannah would dance all night and day if she could, and dreams of attending an esteemed dance school - like the one Simone attends.
Though the girls look identical, when they first meet, Simone is the better dancer, no question - but it's Hannah who really wants to be a dancer, and she is ready and willing to work hard and improve. Simone has better technique and more training, but Hannah has the passion, the determination, the fire. Simone is technically a great dancer, but not emotive; Hannah loves dance, and it shows with every step she takes.
The girls realize a twin-swap would allow Hannah to become immersed in dance and permit Simone to pull back from it a bit. When the summer session at Candance is complete, Simone goes back to Hannah's house, with her kind parents and younger brother, and Hannah heads to Simone's home. By being more aloof and/or busying themselves with their studies, they are able to fool their parents to a good degree, but when each girl leaps into the dating world, things get a little tougher.
I liked the fact that the girls switched places for themselves. While The Parent Trap is set up to get their parents together, Hannah and Simone simply want the chance to pursue the careers they want to pursue, rather than going down a path that doesn't suit them. And though each girl ends up with a boyfriend, the focus of the story isn't on romance. Instead, it's about following your heart and trusting yourself. By experiencing the lives they could have had and pretending to be someone else, the girls ultimately learn how to be themselves.
Fans of The Parent Trap will love the fact that the girls outright mention the movie when they plan to swap places, and that they too need to cut one girl's hair and pierce her ears in order to make her perfectly match the other.
Dancers will appreciate the love Hannah has for dance and understand how both Hannah and Simone feel about the difficulty (and the rewards) of the career. As I always say when there's a book revolving around dance, singing, or any visual/audio/art-related storyline, I wish this book had a visual element, because I want to see the actual dances! I want to attend the classes and rehearsals and performances. I want to see the characters in their element, assess their skills, and watch them shine.
Related posts at Bildungsroman
Booklist: I Am a Dancer
Interview: Robyn Bavati
Booklist: From a Land Down Under