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Dancing in the Dark

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  519 ratings  ·  92 reviews
North American debut of the Australian award-winning drama. Ditty Cohen is passionate about ballet--she loves how it feels to stand en pointe, to rise and spin across the room. But her Orthodox Jewish parents want Ditty to focus on the teachings of the Torah and to marry at a young age according to their religious tradition. Although her parents forbid her to take dance le ...more
Paperback, 321 pages
Published February 8th 2013 by Flux (first published February 1st 2010)
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Average rating 4.02  · 
Rating details
 ·  519 ratings  ·  92 reviews

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Rebecca McNutt
Not to be confused with the Lars Von Trier film of the same title.

This book tackles not only the topic of rebellion, but also the freedom of religion and growing up to decide for yourself what life you'd like to lead. The main character, Ditty, came alive on the pages in her insistence that she must keep on dancing, and was definitely amazing and inspiring as a leading voice in the book.
This is the story of an Ultraorthodox Jewish girl who discovers ballet and spends the next five years lying to her parents so that she can take ballet classes. As she spends more and more time taking ballet and more and more time around goyim, she starts to question her beliefs (initially, the rules of her Ultraorthodox movement but eventually her faith as a whole).

I had...mixed feelings about this book. I loved the idea of this 12 year old girl being so taken with ballet that she does whatever
Apr 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ditty wants to start ballet lessons - but her strictly religious Jewish parents forbid it. So she begins dancing in secret, creating elaborate lies so her parents don't find out what she's doing - if she's caught, she'll be in huge trouble. Ditty soon finds herself questioning the beliefs her parents have raised her with. For Ditty, following her dreams of being a ballet dancer may cost her her family.

What really surprised me about this book was the fact that it was set in the present - until mo
Initial reaction: "Dancing in the Dark" was, indubitibly, a beautifully told story of a young woman's coming of age and quest to pursue a dream of dancing. However, in the spectrum of faith and abiding by her family's strict rules, she has to pursue her dreams in secret, and begins to question the foundations she's been taught for much of her life. I really enjoyed the novel in so many ways, from the smooth, easy prose, to the intimacy of Ditty's experiences, but I was left with a few conflictin ...more
Cassi aka Snow White Haggard
2.5/5 stars
Dancing in the Dark wasn't terrible. But considering it has two of my favorite things, dancing stories and religious doubt, and I still couldn't like it, that's not a good sign for the book.

The biggest problem with this book is that it feels to juvenile. Yes I understand Ditty lives with an overprotective orthodox Jewish family so she's expected to be naive. But naiveté alone does not make a story juvenile. This story has the great opportunity to show those who are kept away from th
Wandering Librarians
Ditty is a Haredi Jew, the most conservative branch of Orthodox Judaism (sometimes referred to as ultra-Orthodox). When she and her friend Sarah sneak watching some TV, Ditty discovers the world of dance and is transfixed. She wants to take ballet lesson more than anything, but dancing is something her family will not allow. Against her father's and her community's wishes, Ditty secretly begins taking dance lessons. Can Ditty dance and keep her family? Or will she need to give one of them up?

Cass -  Words on Paper
Really questions the validity of religion, whether ones religion is more sacred or above another. Also, it teaches a good lesson of FOLLOW YOUR HEART.

I stayed up until 2 am last night finishing it off. The moment I read the last page, I turned the lights off and pulled up the sheets, and just laid there. My mind was processing what I had just read, and I could not sleep until AT LEAST half an hour later.

I don't know what I'm going to say in my review. I'll say this now, though: Anyone who has ev
Gina (My Precious Blog)
Oct 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ballet

Have you ever wanted to do something forbidden so badly, that it made you question your entire belief system or maybe even the foundation for your beliefs - well that's what's going on in this engaging, thought provoking read. Poor Ditty....

Ditty is being raised a Haredi Jew (Ultra-Orthodox Jew). Her strict religion forbids so many pleasures in life: no TV, no dancing and no food that isn't Kosher. She will have an arranged marriage and her number one duty in life is to have babies and ra
Christal (Badass Book Reviews)
See this review and others like it at!

Dancing in the Dark was previously published in Australia in 2010, and has finally hit the American market. Robyn Bavati has written a touching contemporary tale of a girl learning what she must do to be happy. The prose was beautiful and the interactions between the characters were both joyful and heartbreaking. I really enjoyed reading this book and loved the main character. Even though I know next to nothing about ballet and the Hare
Jill Katz
Oct 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars. My daughter handed me this YA book and said I had to read it. I didn't expect much but found that I couldn't put it down! After I finished it, I handed it to my youngest and found her staying up late to read it- she couldn't put it down either!

I recommend this book as a great conversation starter between yourself and your daughter. There are major themes of religion and free will in this book. Be Aware: This book questions whether or not someone should have a choice in observing relig
Kelly Hager
Feb 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
If you know me at all, you know that I have no dancing ability whatsoever. In fact, the only time I dance at all is when I've been drinking heavily and I mention that because if you ever see me dancing, knock the drink out of my hand, give me a diet soda and some aspirin.

So even though I am not a dancer at all (or even graceful), I am so in love with stories about dance in general and ballet in particular. And this book was no exception.

I think most of us have one thing (or more, maybe) that we
Sarah Elizabeth
Oct 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
(Source: I received a digital copy of this book for free on a read-to-review basis. Thanks to Flux Books and Netgalley.)
17-year-old Yehudit (Ditty) is glad that she is Jewish, and glad that her life has a purpose, but she also knows that her life would be nothing without dance.

One of 7 children, and part of a strict Jewish family, Ditty’s life is strictly structured, and she must abide by the Jewish laws and stipulations. She must always be dressed conservatively, she must always eat kosher foo
Brandi Kosiner
Ditty has a love, a forbidden one, but for once it is not boys. It is ballet. Her parents don't approve, so she dances in secret, and falls more and more in love and becomes more talented. How deep can she get while keeping her secrets and the essence of who she is?
Ditty was quite a character. I could feel her love for dancing across the page as well as the pain and conflict of slowly letting go of her beliefs and others that she holds dear in order to pursue what she loves and what she is goo
Apr 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 5-star, ya, 2013
Delightful. Different. Delightfully different!
The very best YA fiction doesn't include any of the usual tired plot devices or characters. By this I mean no MHB (Mysterious Hot Boy), no LT(Love Triangle), no PG(Plain Girl who is universally beloved for no apparent reason), no IL(Insta-Love), and no we can't be together because I am too dangerous, you are too dangerous, you and me together is too dangerous, etc.
So, you may be asking, well then what's left? If you remove all that stuff and the spar
Jan 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very absorbing and beautifully written. I could really relate to Ditty on a lot of levels because I too was brought up in a strict religious family - not as strict as Ditty's, but still pretty out-there by today's standards - and there were quite a few moments where she was sneaking around behind her parents' back, crippled with guilt, getting tangled in a web of lies and more lies to cover up those lies etc etc, that could have been lifted straight from my teenage years. I loved the moment when ...more
Leslie Clingan
Dec 29, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am certain that in some other life or some other time I was Jewish. And this year, in honor of my former Jewishness, my younger daughter gave me a menorah for Christmas. Christmas, not Hanukkah. :) Thank you, Lauren! Many of the books I read are related to the Holocaust, its victims and its miraculous survivors. But Dancing in the Dark by Robyn Bavati was different choice of book for me.

Ditty Cohen is torn between the life her Orthodox Jewish parents have created for her and the life she drea
May 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dancing in the Dark follows a young girl's progress from living as an obedient Haredi (orthodox Jew) daughter in a strict religious household, to becoming a dancer who lives for her art.

From the moment Yehudit "Ditty" Cohen watches a forbidden ballet DVD, she's hooked. She practices in the bathroom for hours before wandering into Australia's National Ballet school and falling into lessons. Soon she's living a double life, half a Haredi, half as a dancer, and knowing it can't last forever. The co
Aug 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Dancing In the Dark is an incredibly bittersweet novel of living your dreams. Ditty wants to become a ballet dancer, she loves the art of ballet, the costumes, the elegancy, the moves, everything. But when she asks her parents, they refuse. But Ditty doesn’t let that hold her back; she goes ahead and starts taking lessons anyway. At first keeping the truth from her family comes easy, but as she becomes more advanced and more committed to ballet, it becomes a struggle. And one day, she is caught, ...more
Lisa Bernstein
Feb 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book was engaging and the main character was very likable. I think it was a bit one-sided as it did a good job showing why she had to choose between ballet and her hasidic family, community, and lifestyle; however, it didn't do much to show positive or beautiful aspects of hasidic life. Still, it was a very good book and I would recommend it for Jewish teens.
CM Alsop
Dec 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Also posted here:

*Made Possible by! Thank you very much!

Yehudit (Ditty) Cohen and her friend Sara see a ballet on TV. It is the first time Ditty has ever seen the beautiful and graceful art form, and she is beyond smitten. She is twelve-years-old and she asks her parents to have lessons. Her request is hit with a firm rejection, and she cannot ask again, ever. This is all because she is part of a haredi community of ultra-ortho
Abigail Katz
Oct 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book came at just the right time in my life. I am a modern-orthodox Jew who constantly gets frustrated with religion and questions the laws. When I first took this book out, I had no idea what it was about. I was very excited to see that it was about a haradi Jew.

I loved how both modern-orthodox Jews and haradi Jews are accurately portrayed in this book. While I am not haradi, I felt like I could relate to the main character, Ditty. Ditty goes against her parents' wishes by taking ballet c
Jul 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

This was my third time reading this book and every time it has been just as earth-shattering as the other but each in such different ways. This book has many great attributes such as great writing and plot however I also understand how to many it can be seen as just another contemporary book - but to me it was so much more. This book hit me personally and right in the heart. It probably could have been not the best writing and I'd still love it! Though to be fair it has to be written well w
Mar 01, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: big-kid-lit, fiction
Far more focused on navigating independence in the world vs. life in a closed religious community than dancing. Also explores the nature of God, punishment, self, and rules in a thoughtful way that should be accessible to teens.
May 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a wonderful combination of a young woman striving for her dreams but being curtailed by her parents & her religion. It raises so many philosophical questions throughout but in such a way that it makes you really stop and think. A fabulous YA novel. ...more
Stacy Alderman
Jun 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved this book, regardless of whether it was YA or not. It's such a beautiful coming of age story about the struggle between being true to yourself and being true to your beliefs and your family. Very well written and an easy read, yet deep and touching.
Aug 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: best-ever-books
I recommend this book for girls who have a dream to dance. I liked this book because it makes me feel like wanting to do even more dancing. It is a good book for ages 8+.
Apr 24, 2019 rated it it was ok
This book is good and all but it has been forever ruined because I had to do it for *shiver* school.
Mar 16, 2013 rated it liked it
Robyn Bavati's book about a girl torn between her passion and religion is a breath of fresh air in a sea of melodramatic teen novels. I can only describe the narrative as "soft"--Ditty is passionate about her life, but her internal dialogue is not overwrought or filled with hyperbole. Instead, she's a thoughtful young woman who is torn about the sins she's committing in order to pursue her dreams. In some ways this low-key style makes the book read a bit more like a middle grade novel than young ...more
Feb 20, 2013 rated it really liked it

When I first started reading this book, I thought it was a paranormal mystery for some reason. I had read the blurb, but because I’ve read several books concerning ballet that were paranormal as of late, and the cover looked suitable for a paranormal book, I was convinced there was going to be one or other paranormal element. I have no idea why though because when I reread the blurb, there’s nothing whatsoever to indicate anything out of the ordinary is going on. Anyway, paranormal or not, I enj
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Dancing in the dark 3 10 Jul 09, 2012 10:57PM  

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Robyn Bavati lives in Melbourne, Australia. She is married and has three grown-up children and a cat called Chino, who likes to sit on her lap when she reads.

Robyn has so many favorite books she can't possibly list them all. Right now she's loving The Family With Two Front Doors by Anna Ciddor and The Waiting Room by Leah Kaminsky.

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