A ballerina at the height of her powers becomes consumed with finding her missing brother in this “striking debut” (Oprah Daily).
At twenty-two years old, Cece Cordell reaches the pinnacle of her career as a ballet dancer when she’s promoted to principal at the New York City Ballet. She’s instantly catapulted into celebrity, heralded for her “inspirational” role as the first Black ballerina in the famed company’s history. Even as she celebrates the achievement of a lifelong dream, Cece remains haunted by the feeling that she doesn’t belong. As she waits for some feeling of rightness that doesn’t arrive, she begins to unravel the loose threads of her past—an absent father, a pragmatic mother who dismisses Cece’s ambitions, and a missing older brother who stoked her childhood love of ballet but disappeared to deal with his own demons.
Soon after her promotion, Cece is faced with a choice that has the potential to derail her career and shatter the life she’s cultivated for herself, sending her on a pilgrimage to both find her brother and reclaim the parts of herself lost in the grinding machinery of the traditional ballet world.
Written with spellbinding beauty and ballet’s precise structure, Dances centers around women, art, and power, and how we come to define freedom for ourselves.
An African American ballerina battles racial profiling and personal demons in Cuffy's brilliant debut novel (after the chapbook Atlas of the Body). At 22, Celine "Cece" Cordell gets the biggest break of her career when she's promoted to principal dancer at the New York City Ballet. Surrounded by white dancers, she is immediately considered a trailblazer by the media. The newfound attention is spoiled, though, after her lover and fellow troupe dancer cheats on her with another performer just as Cece learns she is unexpectedly pregnant. Then, her beloved yet troubled older brother, Paul, who first encouraged her dancing, goes missing. Paul has struggled with a drug addiction, and Cece, fearing he might have died, travels to South Carolina to find him. A ballet dancer herself, Cuffy brings grace, control, and vigor to her prose. Through Cece's trials, the story movingly explores the secrets and inner demons of a performer who struggles with artistic competition, betrayal, guilt, family, and "the ever-present weight" of her race. Indeed, as Cece acknowledges, "the ballet body is an intimidating mystique." Readers will be enchanted.