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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

The Ballerinas

ISBN: 978-1250274236

Publisher: St Martin's Press

Publication Date: 12/07/2021

Format: Other

My Rating: 4 Stars

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.


One of the "Biggest Mysteries and Thrillers for the Rest of 2021" ––Goodreads

December IndieNext Pick and #1 LibraryReads Pick

Named Most Anticipated by: New York Times ·Goodreads ·Brit + Co ·Library Journal ·Pure Wow E! ·Nylon ·BookRiot ·PopSugar

"Enthralling...irresistible." ––New York Times

"A standing ovation to this debut." ––E! News

"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."

––Publishers Weekly

"Deliciously observed emotional tangles"

––Library Journal

"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."

––Dance Magazine

"You’ll never look at ballet the same."

––Book Riot

"There's something so tantalizing about the combo of the pristine nature of ballet mixed with the messy drama of a thriller."


"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

My Review

Fully immersive, Rachel Kapelke-Dale's DEBUT —The Ballerinas novel is captivating, exploring professional dance, its complexities of female friendships, and the negative impacts of ballet's culture.

From the stunning gorgeous front cover to the pages, the author grabs your attention moving between the adolescent years and the present day.

Delphine abandoned her prestigious soloist spot at the Paris Opera Ballet for a new life in St. Petersburg––thirteen years ago. Taking with her a secret that could upend the lives of her best friends, fellow dancers Lindsay and Margaux.

The three students grow up and develop friendships and together embark on the trail of destruction.

Now thirty-six years old, Delphine has returned to her former home and the legendary Palais Garnier Opera House— to choreograph the ballet that will kickstart the next phase of her career. She hopes to make things right with her former friends and seek redemption.

But some things have changed. Can secrets stay buried forever?

INSIGHTFUL! The author beautifully illustrates her well-researched knowledge of ballet with her intricate details and vivid descriptions.

From the well-developed characters to their drive, determination, commitment, obsession, pressures, perfectionism, challenges, competitiveness, and the sacrifices required to succeed.

We also learn how women have little power and are surrounded by misogyny with power and influence. It's a haunting novel about performing arts, passion, loyalty, ambition, power, friendship, betrayal, secrets, and dreams.

How the past haunts the present.

@JudithDCollins | #JDCMustReadBooks

My Rating: 4 Stars

Pub Date: Dec 7, 2021


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. WEBSITE







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