By Chelsea Thomas and Leah Gerstenlauer of Dance Informa.
A new teen dance novel entitled No One’s Watching was released earlier this year by author Sandy Green. The fictional account of ballet trainee Kitri is an entertaining read for all dancers ages 12-16.
In the novel, the “romance of Swan Lake” meets the “raw energy of Riverdance” as Kitri falls head over heels for all things Irish. The plot is intensified when Kitri develops feelings for her new dance partner, the handsome Blake. The plot synopsis asks, “Will she tie a Celtic knot to her new passion and hang on?” It’s a novel about following your dreams and figuring out exactly what those dreams are.
Author Sandy Green, unlike other fiction writers, penned this novel from personal experience in the ballet and Irish dance worlds. Originally educated in the Cecchetti method, she holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Dance from Florida State University (FSU.) A former ballet dancer and teacher, Green has also had several years of experience accompanying her daughter in the popular world of competitive Irish dance.
Here, Dance Informa speaks with Green on what inspired No One’s Watching and how she formulates her story.
Sandy, what inspired your novel No One’s Watching?
“In my life, I’ve attended loads of summer dance camps, so I thought, ‘What if a girl went to a dance camp?’ At the time, my daughter was an Irish dancer. We took her to see Riverdance and Michael Flatley, and she just loved it. Watching those performances, I saw a relationship and could see how a ballet dancer might be able to transition into this new style.
I dreamed up a conflict: Her mother never liked Irish dance, and she doesn’t want to hurt her mother…”
Did you write this novel based on your own experiences?
“Kind of. My mother, my daughter and myself have danced in numerous styles like Kitri, the main character. My mother was a modern dancer and she took a little bit of ballet, but she really loved modern because it was earthier. Social commentary was being explored at the time [before WWII] and she danced with Anna Sokolow. For me, FSU was very influenced by modern dance when I was there, but I never felt a conflict like Kitri does in the book, even coming from a ballet background.
When my daughter was in high school, she was dancing and also in track. She had to pick one because she was exhausted…”
Do you base your characters in your books off of people you know?
“When both of my kids were growing up, I would sometimes model a character off of girls I had just met. One of the little girls looks like my daughter, but I took her name from another girl… I guess the characters are composites.
[For Kitri,] how can she like Irish dance? Does she have to be Irish to like Irish dance? She’s into that age where she’s exploring different personas and trying to figure out what she wants to do. This is a character who is trying to find her own way, her own truth.
Girls at this age are trying to be pleasers, but sometimes you have to be brave and step outside of that role that society places on you. She’s not making a horrible decision, but she perceives it to be, and the reason why is pretty serious. But she has to seek her own path.”
Did you struggle making this accessible to a non-dance audience?
“Teaching helps. When you’re teaching young dancers, you have to be able to explain things quickly and well. I appreciate how other multilingual authors will use a certain term, then unravel it fluidly in the following passage just enough that it gives you the flavor and makes it seem authentic. Maybe the reader is a gymnast or rides horses, but he/she can get something out of it nonetheless. Even though I’m not a musician, I get something out of listening to a orchestra.”
Photo (top): Author Sandy Green at her vendor table at the Irish dance event McGrath Feis. Photo by Gary Green.