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Dancers of the Dawn: Creating magic through dance

Dancers of the Dawn: Creating magic through dance

Ever since I was younger and would go on special trips to watch the ballet at the local theatre with my family, I’ve always been in complete awe of the way the performers could enchant the audience. From the sparkling costumes and the dramatic set designs, to the ability to tell a story through elegant hand gestures and movement, there’s a real magic in dance.

I’ve done ballet since I was three-years-old, and while my dream was never to audition for ballet schools and to perform professionally, I did have a dream about writing a book inspired by my love of dance. But I could never find the right story to tell. I grew up on the likes of the Step Up films – which I loved! – where dance worlds collided in the form of classical ballet versus street dance. As a teenager turned budding novelist, my take on the genre followed all of the same themes and tropes and was wholly unoriginal for it. It wasn’t until years later when the striking image of a girl dancing in the desert came to me, that I realised I could combine my two loves: dance and fantasy.

The girl was dancing over the dunes beneath a red sun, and as she began to spin on the spot, sand kicked up her legs as her skirt flared out around her. Then the real magic happened. A gold shimmer emerged from her palms and laced across her body, glittering in the sunlight before turning to flames. I was immediately intrigued. Who was this girl? And had she really just conjured flames as she danced?

My initial ideas quickly cascaded from there and I knew that Aasira’s (the title character’s) ability to wield flames did indeed manifest through dance. But despite how beautiful the image was in my mind, I knew that there was another layer to her ability to produce flames. They were lethal and deadly, and a part of herself that she loved but also felt burdened by because they had been weaponised for war by her queen and country. Aasira wasn’t simply a dancer. She was a dancing warrior. A weapon.

Aasira’s dance performances look very different (thankfully!) to those we might see on the stage or on screen, with hers often ending in her conjuring her flames to execute enemies of the crown. Despite this realisation about the purpose of her magic, I still wanted to capture the beauty of dance for readers. When Aasira and the rest of the dancers of the dawn perform together, they captivate their audience not only through their magical abilities, but through their skills as dancers as they weave intricate patterns and command the stage.

For me, there’s no better feeling than being caught up in the music and swept along by a performance, and I hope to have brought some of that escapism from the stage to the page. Not only for the reader, but for Aasira, too, as she often wonders what her role within her country is and who she wants to be. And there are glimmers when she performs where she truly does feel like she can call herself a dancer – allowing herself to get lost in the music and her movements – and that she is more than the warrior everyone else sees her as and that she has been trained to be.

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Dancers of the Dawn is my love letter to dance. If you pick up a copy, I hope that, whether you have experience doing ballet or not, you find yourself an enchanted audience member as Aasira and the rest of the dancers on the page perform their story for you.

Dancers of the Dawn is out with Rock the Boat (Oneworld) on 6 June 2024

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