SPINNING OUT is a big, spirited, character-driven novel: chick lit of a superior kind … Darcas’s novel is a satisfying read with a swift and assured narrative, splashes of melodrama and convincingly drawn characters.’
— The Age, Pick of the Week
‘The novel is … warm, with a diverse cast of mostly decent human beings. Darcas is not afraid of the darkness, and her romance is not always happy every after. An engaging read.’
— The Age, M Magazine
‘With its Strictly Ballroom embellishments, this is a story for any girl who felt like she couldn’t pull herself up by her own socks.’
— Cosmopolitan Magazine
‘A fun, thoughtful look at a complicated modern life.’
— NW Magazine
‘The reason I like this book so much was the realistic characterisations and scenarios. At no point do we need to suspend disbelief …’
— Australian Bookseller & Publisher, 4/5 stars
‘This is a wonderful read about love and loss, career moves versus motherhood, and the absorbing world of dance.’ — Daily Mercury
‘SPINNING OUT is a novel that reaffirms our right to steer the direction of our own lives, and to realise what we can achieve when we take advantage of the possibilities presented to us.’
— Swan Hill Guardian
‘From the first page I was hooked and by the third chapter I had laughed and cried and knew that I had found a truly great story.’
‘Darcas’ portrayal of this relationship [between mother and daughter] has an authentic feel, capturing those angst-filled moments between a parent and child, where finding common ground seems near impossible, which many readers will be able to relate to.’
— M/C Reviews
New York City, 1984
Therese Deluca removed her reading glasses and arched her long neck over her shoulder. ‘Everyone leave the auditorium!’ she commanded.
She paused and turned further in her seat with the grace of a willow branch bending in the breeze. ‘Mrs Kerr, please join me here.’ In the recessed darkness, the red velvet chair where my mother was sitting flipped back in place with a thud. Then Miss Deluca nodded towards me on the stage. ‘And you, Virginia.’
My mother, Pearl, strode down the aisle to the trestle table where Miss Deluca, flanked by Valeriya Kutznetsov and Jonathan Broome, was sitting. Valeriya, a principal dancer with the New York City Ballet for three years, glanced the length of my mother’s physique. Although nerves buzzed in my ears and prickled across my chest, I still felt the sting of her scrutinizing flicker. I had seen this before; the instructor who surreptitiously studied my mother’s body for the possibility of more height and slimming length in my development. But Mom’s stout build offered little reassurance. Anyway, at seventeen, I wasn’t likely to change much.
I inhaled deeply, forcing my breathing to calm. Nerves always winded me. Standing in third position, my right leg poised in front of my left, I squeezed my thighs more tightly together. Shoulders back and settled, pelvis in, ribs pointing downward, spine erect — everything to hold my vertical line. Anything to make me look longer.
During my entire audition, my balance had never wavered. I had nailed every chainé turn, every grand jeté, every pirouette and rond de jambe. Technically, I was strong. Technique and performance were my advantages, the elements I had spent days, months and years honing.
They will recognise that. The quality of the dancing will matter more than anything. But standing here, summoned forth like this, was disconcerting. Either a dancer was accepted into the City Ballet School or rejected. I dared to cling to hope.
Therese Deluca laced her fingers together, looked up at me and simply said, ‘I dread dancers like you.’
Beside me, my mother stiffened.
Miss Deluca spoke quickly and firmly. ‘I always hope that someone else will have discouraged you before you get to me. But no. The tenacious ones, the ones with the real talent and passion, hold on. The ones who could be so brilliant if only —’ She raised her arms, opened her hands and gestured in near supplication to my body. ‘Virginia, I wish someone had told you before now … that it’s very, very unlikely that you would ever be accepted into any truly reputable ballet company in this country. You could, of course, dance for a lesser company. But … that prospect makes you inappropriate for our school.’
For the first time that day, my spine weakened and my balance deserted me. I broke out of third position to stand as I would anywhere else but in a dance studio. Not as Virginia the Ballerina. Not even as Virginia the Dancer. Just Virginia. Just Ginny.
I was crumbling … Surely they saw that in the quickening of my breath. Jonathon Broome spread his muscular hand on the table in front of me. The mahogany skin of his forearms rippled with dancer’s muscle. He smiled gently.
‘We were hoping we could convince you to attend the contemporary side of the school. You would be one of my pupils.’
His words cluttered my brain. Then his meaning stabbed through, and I swallowed back a sob. ‘You mean … quit ballet?’
‘I’d never tell anyone to quit dancing,’ he said, straightening. ‘What I’m saying is that the contemporary path is the one open to you at our school. I’m doing some cutting edge choreography,’ he added. ‘You know, experimenting.’
I attempted to smile, but a tear escaped down my cheek when I blinked. Jonathon’s face closed and he settled back in his seat. Miss Deluca leaned forward.
‘You’re at a critical crossroads, Virginia. You could come to a school like ours and pursue contemporary dance. But to do that, you would be sacrificing the development of practical skills that would come with a strong college education. Skills that could open up a world of other opportunities for you.’
I didn’t know what to say. Suddenly, all I wanted to do was get out of there. To gather my failure and humiliation, and flee before I disintegrated into tears.
‘Why does it matter?’
At my mother’s voice, I snapped around to stare at her. Please Mom, no. But she said it again. ‘Why does it matter if she’s not built perfectly?’ She looked pointedly from Miss Deluca to Jonathan then Valeriya. ‘Hasn’t the world progressed past this kind of … superficiality? Virginia’s a joy to watch, always has been. At nine, she danced Clara in the Nutcracker at —’
‘The Rockefeller Center,’ interrupted Miss Deluca. She put her reading glasses back on and glared over the rims at Mom. ‘Do you have any idea how many Claras I’ve seen at ballet auditions? They’re all over the country. All over the world!’ Strands of her famously long grey hair had fallen over her cheek. She pressed them away from her face and over her shoulder. ‘I understand, Mrs Kerr, how disappointing this sort of thing can be on a parent as well — the hours, the money. Of course, Virginia couldn’t have gotten this far without you.’
‘This isn’t right.’ My mother’s voice was low, belligerent.
‘It’s okay, Mom.’ I moved in front of her, took her hand and attempted to smile for the panel. ‘Thank you for your time. We’ll go now.’
But Mom wouldn’t budge.
‘How can this be?’ Mom planted herself in front of them and I realised with horror that she was on the verge of tears. ‘How can you shatter someone’s dreams and dismiss their talent because of some skewed notion of a perfect female form? It’s just wrong!’
Valeriya inhaled deeply. Her blonde hair was slicked back into an impeccable bun. Everything about her ― her neck, shoulders, torso ― seemed woven from long, heavenly sinews. Once again, she scanned my mother’s unkempt braid, her handmade dangling earrings and the frumpy, bohemian wrap of her skirt.
‘Mrs Kerr,’ declared Valeriya, ‘for more than a hundred years audiences have filled great halls all over the world to see the ballet we nurture. It may not be fair, but it is the reality.’ Therese Deluca snapped out her hand and closed it over Valeriya’s wrist, but this didn’t stop her. ‘Perhaps if you had presented this reality to your daughter, instead of some skewed notion of women’s liberation, we all would have been spared this episode today.’
Mom’s face reddened. For a moment she seemed dazed. I moved away, yanking her behind me. Therese Deluca murmured a ‘good luck’, perhaps Jonathon said something too. Leaving is the only part of that audition that I can’t remember.
But my memory of the rest is as sharp as broken glass.