Mix Dancing Into Writing and Surprising Stories Can Abound
by Christine Darcas
When I started writing fiction 16 years ago, I never imagined that I would publish one, let alone two, novels with a Latin American dance context. In fact, if anyone had told me then that I would move to Australia in my 40s and become a dance addict, I would have guffawed. But that’s exactly what happened.
In 2001, my family landed in Melbourne for my husband’s work. By then, nearly a decade had passed since I had abandoned my corporate career to become a stay-at-home mother. But aware as I was of my good fortune to have an employed spouse, healthy children, and food on the table, I had long since started to feel strangely invisible and squandered. As I met and spoke with more women, I would learn that I was not alone. Not by a long shot.
One morning, I read a fluffy newspaper article about the 25 things you should do before you die. Dancing was right on top of the list. It so happened that I passed a Latin American dance studio every day on the route to my kids’ schools. I started to take dance lessons, and a new odyssey began.
Within two months, I started to change. I was having fun. As I learned choreography and slowly released my spirit to the music, I experienced a joyous exhilaration I never anticipated. Meeting the challenge to perform publicly for exams, I was pleasantly surprised by what I could accomplish. I became fitter and more confident. What’s more, I witnessed other middle-aged women experiencing the same transformation. I began to think there was a story in it, and so Dancing Backwards in High Heels was born.
The more I learned about dancing, particularly competition Latin American dancing, the more insight I developed into tensions that could fuel a compelling story. While the dance world offers a lot of joy, it also creates unexpected anguish. For example, we can easily imagine a dance partnership that smoulders with restrained desire. But what happens if the woman falls for her partner and he’s gay? Spending so many hours in physical contact might trigger romance but it’s not uncommon for the opposite to happen, causing the partnership to end in frustration and bitterness. And that scenario we’ve heard about where the girl who loved ballet is denied a ballet career because of her stout build? What if her mother encouraged her to pursue her dream despite knowing that her body might be a liability? Is the daughter then justified in believing her mother foolishly set her up for failure? These are the sort of rising stakes I play with in Spinning Out.
Despite the tensions that dance can create, my work always returns to its joyful power to stir and awaken our souls. With that awakening comes hope. Whenever dark storm clouds gather, you can find me on a dance floor, sheltered from the rain.
Christine Darcas is a freelance writer whose fiction and non-fiction have appeared in publications across a variety of countries. In addition to her writing, Christine is passionate about Latin American dancing and reached the Masters semi-finals of the 2007 Australian Dancesport Championships. She was born and raised in the US and is now settled in Melbourne, Australia, with her husband and two teenage children. Visit her website at www.christinedarcas.com.