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Dancing in the Dark

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  490 Ratings  ·  87 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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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
Steph Bowe
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
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
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
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 (Brandi Breathes Books)
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: 2013, 5-star, ya
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.
Ephemera Pie
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
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
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+.
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
Oct 03, 2013 rated it liked it
I requested this on NetGalley when I was in the mood for a darker contemporary novel. By the time it was approved though, that mood have moved on. So I was sure I wouldn’t enjoy it, and set about reading it well ahead of time so I could be sure to be finished by the day it needed to be reviewed. What actually happened: I flew through this book in a day and thoroughly enjoyed it! Dancing in the Dark opened my eyes to two worlds I have no experience with. Obviously, I know no Haredi Jewish people, ...more

For more of my reviews, check out my blog @ Moosubi Reviews!

I usually don’t read too much multicultural fiction, recently I’ve been more interested in stories about dance. This book also sounded kind of like A World Away by Nancy Grossman, which I also enjoyed. So, when I saw this book on NetGalley, as well as a handful of good reviews from GR friends, I picked it up and enjoyed the book (:

Ditty was a likable and somewhat complex character, though I wish she was a bit more developed. I def
Oct 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing

Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I just adore dance books so I was very excited to get this one with the additional bonus of religious conflict and the presence of sisters! This book ended up being a standout read for me so far this year. An additional bonus is that this book is set in Australia and takes place over years, allowing for more time with our main character as she grows in the art of dance.

That main character is Ditty and she is a Haredi J
Jan 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
4.5 Stars

Most of my reading occurs on my work breaks, and that's how I picked my way through the first third of this novel. But the more I read, the more I was drawn into the story, and so I read the last two-thirds in a single day. This is a book I will be buying at some point.

Ditty was a great character, and I loved the world she inhabited. She's a Jewish girl from a family where they follow their religion to a 'T', and while I can't say how accurate of a portrayal it was, I really felt immers

Ditty is a teenage girl who belongs to an extremely strict Jewish community. Then she finds out about ballet, and is immediately entranced. So much so that when her parents say that she can't learn, she secretly does so behind their backs. Soon dance becomes her life, heart and soul. As she follows her dream she finds herself questioning her beliefs and becoming more and more distant from those she loves. Secrets cannot stay hidden forever, so what will happen when her family finds out he
Joséphine (Word Revel)
I must admit, it was difficult to get into the book because Bavati chose to adopt Jewish/ Hebrew terms wherever possible. She did preempt readers however, including a letter of sorts at the beginning, noting that she hoped to capture the authenticity in this manner. For those who are unfamiliar with those terms, she included a glossary at the back, though in many cases she also integrated their meanings into her writings, which was definitely helpful. Linguistic barriers out of the way, I loved ...more
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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.

More about Robyn Bavati
“That's where we found you. You were standing in the middle of the garden, dancing in the dark...” 8 likes
“A moment later I am moving through space. Spinning. Twirling. Dancing.
In the light.”
More quotes…