Nuanced, fresh, and gorgeously well-written, Martha Schabas’ extraordinary debut novel takes us inside the beauty and brutality of professional ballet, and the young women striving to make it in that world. Shy and introverted, and trapped between the hyper-sexualized world of her teenaged friends and her dysfunctional family, Georgia is only at ease when she’s dancing. Fortunately, she’s an unusually talented and promising dancer. When she is accepted into the notoriously exclusive Royal Ballet Academy–Canada’s preeminent dance school–Georgia thinks she has made the perfect escape. In ballet, she finds the exhilarating control and power she lacks elsewhere in her life: physical, emotional and, increasingly, sexual.
This dynamic is nowhere more obvious than in Georgia’s relationship with Artistic Director Roderick Allen. As Roderick singles her out as a star and subjects her to increasingly vicious training, Georgia obsesses about becoming his perfect student, disciplined and sexless. But a disturbing incident with a stranger on the subway, coupled with her dawning recognition of the truth of her parents’ unhappy marriage, causes her to radically reassess her ideas about physical boundaries–a reassessment that threatens both Roderick’s future at the academy and Georgia’s ambitions as a ballerina.
Out of all the things that put me off it was the description of this novel. Absolutely misleading. When I asked to review this novel I was excited to read about ballet, seeing as I used to dance around the same age as Georgina, the protagonist of Various Positions. I can say that the only time you truly get that ballet experience is in the first chapter. Her audition. And after she’s entered into the Ballet Academy, well, everything takes a turn for the worst on a downhill slope.