Words leave imprints in your mind like footprints in the sand...
beach reading
starry skies to read under
reading in nature

BookTrail Travels to Clara and Olivia’s world of ballet

  • Submitted: 1st February 2023

A world of ballet and theatre

Clara and Oliva follows the story of two ballerinas who perform at Sadler’s Wells theatre in London. They are twin sisters – identical ones. With them, I got to enter the world of ballet and competitive ballet at that. What a world! This excited me despite me not liking ballet in real life. There’s somethig about this world of dancing that is so exquisite, unique and highly pressured, that I was keen to experience it via  a book as opposed to in real life.

BookTrail Locations in Clara and Olivia

BookTrail Travels to Clara and Olivia's world of ballet

BookTrail Locations in Clara and Olivia

What really intrigued me was the story behind the setting – and why the theatre, The Sadler’s Wells got its name.

This is the theatre today. See who you can see coming out of the stage door…

BookTrail Locations in Clara and Olivia

The front of the theatre is inposing too. Imagine being Clara or Olivia and coming to dance here. Or to be in the audience watching one of the top ballets they are practicing for. The level of detail in this novel really made me see what these ballerinas go through. This is gruelling stuff! Such hard work and it’s very strict and controlled. You can tell the author used to be a ballet dancer herself. She trained with the Royal Ballet  for more than 8 years.

BookTrail Locations in Clara and Olivia

The 1930s, we find out in the novel, was a very important time for British ballet. Famous figures came to prominence and theatres began to take on a very important role. Influential people took to the stage and behind the scenes. Many of these are in the novel – I hadn’t any idea about any of them- but I looked them up and discovered a whole new world I hadn’t realised that had existed.

Sadler’s Wells

Giuseppina Bozzacchi as Swanhilda in the Saint-Léon/Delibes Coppélia. Paris, 1870 (c) Wikipedia

Giuseppina Bozzacchi as Swanhilda in the Saint-Léon/Delibes Coppélia. Paris, 1870 (c) Wikipedia

BookTrail Locations in Clara and Olivia

The story of routine and luck attached to the well is based in real life. The author used to train in this building and remembers that they had superstitions similar to those in the novel.

For example, there was  a statue which they would rub every time they walked past. Dancers and actors are a supersititious lot -there’s lots of legends, traditions and things you have to do. Just imagine sitting in a theatre basement with such a legend as a well? I was transfixed by this.

BookTrail Locations in Clara and Olivia

I also really enjoyed finding out about the main ballet which is featured in the novel. Coppelia. What I really found interesting however was the story thread of Freeds. This is the family who set up Freed of London, the world’s leading designer and manufacturer of professional dance shoes. They had a shop in Cecil Court, Covent Garden – about where Goldsboro Books is now. Maybe there’s still a bit of ballet going on in the basement today….

BookTrail Locations in Clara and Olivia

The ballet world is a cut-throat world it would seem, but the stories which thread through this novel are what really took me on a journey to remember.

I’d be scared of even going behind the scenes of a ballet in real life though!

 

BookTrail Boarding Pass: Clara and Olivia

Twitter: @LSAshe1  

Back to Authorsonlocation

Featured Book

A Poisoner’s Tale

1651: Inspired by the true story of Giulia Tofana: The Angel of Death with a Vial of Vengeance

Read more