winged reviews
Blog Tour, Guest Post, Young Adult / February 12, 2013


I’m extremely excited to be part of the Dance of Shadows blog tour! Ever since Bloomsbury previewed the title and that amazing cover, I knew I had to read it. We’re featuring a guest post from the author, Yelena Black, on her pop culture inspiration.


Dance of Shadows by Yelena Black

Release: 12 February 2013
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing

Vanessa doesn’t believe that her sister is a runaway. She wouldn’t leave her family behind without saying a word. The only way Vanessa can discover the truth behind her mysterious disappearance is to follow in Margaret’s footsteps, but to do so she risks her sanity and maybe even her life . . .

Vanessa Adler is one of the talented few to get a place at the acclaimed New York Ballet Academy. Between backbreaking rehearsals for the school’s production of The Firebird she desperately tries to find out what happened to her sister before she vanished. There are rumors that the pressure of performing the lead role, the same role Vanessa is now rehearsing for, drove her mad. Other girls have gone missing too. Can the role be cursed? Vanessa’s new relationship with leading-man Zep only seems to complicate things further. What is he hiding from her and can she really trust him?

Watch the trailer | Read the first 3 chapters

Guest Post from YELENA

Yelena’s pop culture and style inspirations

There are many things that inspired me to write my debut novel, Dance of Shadows, which is a high-stakes thriller set in an elite ballet academy.

The first thing that comes to mind is my training as a ballet dancer. I studied dance for many years as a young girl, and I am familiar with the very intense life of a ballerina. Although it is an incredibly rewarding career, it is also a difficult one, with many restrictions and expectations. I knew that world was one that I wanted explore, which is why I chose to write about ballet.

My favorite dancers and choreographers certainly inspired the story. The Firebird by Stravinsky plays a meaty role in the book, and this is piece of music that has inspired many ballets and one that I respond to immensely. The work of legends such as George Balanchine, Margot Fonteyn, Anna Pavlova, and Rudolf Nureyev has inspired me for years.

Also, on a lighter side, I absolutely loved the movie Center Stage and, of course, Black Swan. Recently I’ve become a huge Bunheads fan, and I think Sutton Foster is amazing—both as an actress and a dancer. I’ve also been inspired by the literary works of amazing mystery writers like Gillian Flynn, Tana French, and Stephen King.

As a bonus, we also have a mini-interview with the author:

A conversation with YELENA

The world of ballet is a fascinating one that few people really get to see firsthand. What drew you to write about this world?
For me, the world of ballet is this old, ancient place tucked away in the modern world. Every time I went to the ballet, I felt like I was stepping back in time. It’s so regimented and rooted in tradition: the positions, the costumes, the mastery of the human body. I loved how elite and mysterious it was. I think this book was a way for me to explore that.

The music played a huge role for me. I still remember the first time I listened to Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. It was so bizarre and unnerving and chaotic. Later, when I heard the story about its premier in Paris, and how the audience erupted in a mad rage when the music began and the dancers came on stage, I knew I had to write about it.

What kind of research did you do for this book?
This book was fun to research because it mostly involved watching old recordings of ballets and wandering around New York. I also listened to the scores that Vanessa dances to in the book every day while I wrote, and did a lot of reading about ballet and its history. I also spent a fair amount of time snooping around Lincoln Center.

Have you ever tried ballet?
Yes, though I’m almost ashamed to even talk about it. I was a disaster. I couldn’t even put my hair in a bun. It was just a floppy mess of bobby pins. Very embarrassing. I was so bad that in our winter performance of the Nutcracker, they had me and a few other less graceful dancers just walk on stage with horns and then walk off. I eventually quit when they told us we had to learn to do the splits by New Years.

Do you see yourself, or anyone you know, in any of your characters?
Definitely. All of the characters have a little bit of myself in them, and TJ, Blaine, Steffie, and Justin all share similarities with my friends. When I took ballet lessons, I had a male teacher who was charming but firm, like Josef, and who shares a lot of his physical characteristics. Though ultimately, all of the characters are singular.

What were your favorite books when you were Vanessa’s age?
I read a lot of Kurt Vonnegut, and a lot of horror stories. Poe, Shirley Jackson, Stephen King. I also really enjoyed 19th century novels. Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters. Jane Eyre was one of my favorites because it had equal parts romance and mystery, just like Dance of Shadows.

If you were directing the film version of Dance of Shadows, who would you cast in a few of the main roles?
I’d love to see Emma Stone as Vanessa. Zep is hard . . . maybe Taylor Kitsch? And Chace Crawford as Justin?

What’s next?
I’m working on the sequel to Dance of Shadows, which I’m really excited about. I actually think it’s even better than the first. It has a lot of surprises, and an amazing scene at the end that I cannot wait to write.


Yelena Black author picFind Liz on:

Yelena Black holds an MFA in fiction from Columbia University. Dance of Shadows was inspired by her love of ballet. As a child, she studied dance and fell in love with the art form despite not having much in the way of innate dance talent. Her talents lay elsewhere—with words and books and storytelling. Though she never pursued ballet professionally, her interests in dance and performing—and in all things dark and spooky—have blended together in her paranormal debut, where she is able to do pirouettes vicariously through her characters. She lives in New York with an aloof black cat.

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