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 Ballet for Drina by Jean Estoril

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Some books can take you straight back to the time you first read them and this is one of those for me. I first encountered the Drina books as an adult when I read several of the series to my three daughters. I can picture us now snuggled together on the bed as I read a chapter (or two) each evening. I'm not sure who enjoyed the books more – them or me! Although I never wanted to become a ballet dancer I have always enjoyed reading ballet stories, so when we acquired a collection of Drina books I just had to reread them!

Ballet for Drina, published in 1957 is the first of 11 books about Drina Adams and her quest to become a ballet dancer. Drina lives with her maternal grandparents as both parents are dead. She knows little about her parents other than her father was Italian. As the book progresses she is to learn that her mother was someone famous! 

The book begins with Drina starting a new school, but she is worried about settling in and whether or not she will make friends. As she enters the school Drina is almost knocked flying by Jenny Pilgrim who is anxious not to be late. Little does Drina realise that her friendship with Jenny will lead her on a journey into the as yet unknown world of ballet - a world where Drina instantly feels at home although she has no idea why.

The more Jenny talks about ballet the more Drina wants to try dancing. Jenny is not really interested in ballet and is only taking classes to please her mother. She encourages Drina to come along to a lesson just to see what happens and so Drina sits in on a lesson led by Madame Janetta Selswick who was once a ballerina with the Royal Ballet. Drina is soon caught up in the lesson and even she can tell that her friend Jenny is not a dancer. The experience makes Drina determined to dance. However her grandparents are not in favour but don't explain why.

Things come to a head after Drina goes to see a live performance of the ballet La Spectre de la Rose with Jenny and her mother. Although the company aren't very good Drina is so entranced by the ballet that she determines she will have lessons. Drina faces her grandparents and asks that some of her own money be used for ballet lessons. After discussion Drina's grandparents reluctantly agree and Drina is enrolled at the Selswick School. From her first lesson it is obvious that Drina is born to dance. She quickly picks up the moves and soon overtakes many of classmates. Jenny is thrilled for her and longs even more to give up ballet and pursue her interests in nature.

Then comes bad news for Drina. Her grandfather is moving his office and going to work in London and so the family must move. Drina is devastated as it means giving up dancing. The move takes place and despite her grandparents best efforts Drina is unhappy. She has to start at a new school and although most of the girls are friendly enough the talk is of horse riding and skating and only one girl does ballet. Candida is older than Drina and not particularly friendly.

Eventually Drina settles in London helped by meeting Adele Whiteway. This happens accidentally in a bookshop where Drina goes to look at the ballet books. The shop owner tells Drina that Miss Whiteway was once a promising dancer but an accident had damaged her foot and ended her career. She now designs sets for ballet companies especially the Dominick. The two have another encounter when Drina almost gets lost in fog on her way home from school. She is rescued by Miss Whiteway who takes her to her house. There Drina discovers that Miss Whiteway has a practise room used by her niece. Drina has been doing her exercises in the bathroom of the London flat but is entranced to see this room. Miss Whiteway suggests that Drina use it whenever she wishes and writes a note to Drina's Grandmother introducing herself and explaining what is to happen. But Drina tears up the note and goes in secret to Miss Whiteway's.

Drina continues with her secret life until just after Christmas when Drina accompanies her Grandmother shopping and they meet Miss Whiteway. Drina's secret is out. During the ensuing conversation Drina learns that her mother was a ballet dancer and that her Grandmother knowing how hard she had to work wanted to spare Drina from this. However she realises that Drina has to dance and that she must bow to the inevitable and allow Drina to have lessons.

Before the book ends a secret is uncovered! Drina is able to get two tickets for the ballet at Covent Garden on New Year's Eve. She and her grandmother go and there meet the ballet critic Colin Amberdown who knows exactly who Drina's mother was and it is he who tells her that her mother was the great ballerina Elizabeth Ivory – someone Drina has read about and admired.

Drina wishes to continue with her ballet training and hopes one day to become a member of the Dominick Company – as was her mother but she doesn't want anyone to know who her mother was. She is accepted into the Dominick School to train. Her grandmother, knowing how hard her mother had worked would prefer Drina not to pursue her dream but she realises she has to give in and let Drina try.

The subsequent books tell of Drina's progress through the Dominck School. At times she wonders if she will ever be able to realise her dream. She spends some time at the Dominick's residential school in the Chilterns whilst her grandparents are in Australia. She also has the chance to dance with either the Dominick or other ballet companies in different places such as Italy, Paris and Madeira.

To find out if she achieves her dream you will have to read on!

Contribued by Catriona

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