Novel La Follia explores creativity, ballet performance

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Photo of flowers, pointe shoes, and the ebook edition of the novel La Follia.

Though adult ballet students are an ever-growing, passionate, and enthusiastic community, we remain sorely underrepresented in media...

Joanna Marsh fills that void with her debut novel Cantique, and now, with its sequel La Follia.

In protagonist Colette, Marsh paints a character who began ballet as an adult and who loves ballet and longs for ballet as much as any lifelong dancer, thus giving a voice to those who feel afraid to admit just how much dancing means to them.

If you enjoyed the relatable adult ballet moments in Cantique, then you'll certainly enjoy La Follia, too.

In La Follia, Marsh expands Colette’s relatability by exploring a topic all too near and dear to adult ballet students: performance opportunities.

When Colette is offered a chance to perform in a recital, she is thrilled. When she is offered a solo, she is nervous, but decides to take a chance on a rare and special opportunity — for performance opportunities, especially featured roles, are few and far between for adult students of ballet.

While La Follia maintains an overall hopeful and cheerful tone, the novel doesn't shy away from honestly expressing the common struggles of recreational dancers.

Colette's journey to performing is rocky, with an overbooked schedule that leaves little time for rehearsal, unexpected events that demand her time and energy, and the feelings of uncertainty that naturally come with a lack of performance experience.

These struggles resonate all too well with those in the adult ballet community — for an adult ballet dancer with little to no performance experience, the prospect of dancing for an audience is daunting.

And considering the logistical struggles of finding time to rehearse with a life full of responsibilities — combined with the fact that open ballet classes for adults don't necessarily prepare one for the demands of choreography — it's easy to see why Colette quickly becomes overwhelmed.

But the hardest things in life are usually the things we want and need the most, the things for which we must persevere.

Like Cantique, La Follia articulates the struggles of adult ballet students through a beautiful and gripping story, offering a sense of solidarity to a community of dancers who often feel overlooked in the ballet world, especially when it comes to pursuing opportunities beyond the classroom.

Marsh's prose, which reads as smooth as silk, communicates the complex feelings and experiences of Colette with clarity and ease.

Through La Follia, readers feel what it's like to take a chance, to push yourself further than you knew you could for something that — while not strictly necessary — certainly feels necessary.

La Follia captures what it is like to make sacrifices for your most beloved form of creative expression, to feel your limitations but to find a way to keep going: to find a way to dance, no matter what.

Dancers and non-dancers alike will feel inspired and empowered to pursue their creative dreams after reading La Follia.

While this story is especially poignant for adult ballet students, it's truly a story for anyone who has ever felt compelled to make the world a more beautiful place through creativity.