Dancing Backwards in High Heels

| 5 January , 2010 | Reply

Guest Editor, Jane Rowley

Ooooh, those simmering, sultry Latin rhythms.  There\’s nothing like a Latin American dance class to get you all tangled up – literally and emotionally.

In her debut novel, Dancing Backwards in High Heels, Christine Darcas has created a desperately longing character, Madeleine, who re-discovers herself and her libido whilst taking dance classes.

Madeleine has two children, grey hairs peeking through an old colour job, a constrictive, uncommunicative marriage and to top it all off she has just arrived in Australia from America.  Boy, has this woman got herself in a pickle!  Struggling to cope with life in a strange country, Madeleine is also struggling to cope with her loss of self.  A former corporate high-flyer she is now a stay-at-home Mum supporting her husband in his pursuit of a career and prioritizing the needs of her sons.  She is set on a path that is slowly erasing her ego and leading directly to emotional and marital annihilation.  In fact, one in three Australian marriages ends in divorce.  SAVE YOURSELF from becoming a future statistic and read this book as a warning.

Christine Darcas explores the dilemma that many women face.  Denying ourselves becomes second nature as we try to juggle marriage, children and a career.   Daracas takes us deep inside Maddy\’s mind; a forty-something woman who is floundering socially and emotionally.

So personal is the writing, emphasized by the first person narration, that without reading the author\’s biographical notes you know you are witness to a substantial part of Christine Daracas\’ life.  As it turns out Daracas is an ex-patriot American, she is crazy about Latin American dancing, she has two children and she\’s moved country several times following her husband\’s career moves.

If you snuck your sister\’s diary from under her mattress when you were kids to read her intimate thoughts then this novel will give you that same feeling of tedium mixed with salacious detail.  So intimate is that detail that at times the miniature of Maddy\’s daily life and her self-absorbed negativity becomes stifling.  It\’s an emotional response Darcas has deliberately manufactured to make her point.  When women loose their sense of personal power and identity, their relationships are the first to suffer, in particular their relationship with themselves.

Darcas uses Latin American dance classes as a conduit to explore how Maddy recovers her sense of self and her emotional independence.  The allure of dancing for Madeleine stems from her youth when anything was possible, when romance was pure adrenaline with no attachments or covenants

But self doubt grows fastest when denied the light of reason and joy.  Tempted by a younger, slick talking man who has way more pelvis action than Maddy\’s husband, she finds the answers and a new identity in her dancing.

Christine Darcas believes Latin American dancing can be a transforming experience for women.  “It was as though we were reawakening to our femininity and reconnecting with the women we used to be before work and/or family overtook us,” she says in her author interview.  Frankly, after watching a few episodes of So You Think You Can Dance the answers to happiness do seem to be found in the perfect extended rondé and a series of cha-cha locks.  So next time you feel your emotional baggage weighing you down, check your bags at the door and step into the glow of a warmly lit dance hall – you to could be transformed by a sultry Latin rhythm.

Available now:  Hachette RRP$22.99


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