A bright and ebullient picture book written by Mahak Jain and illustrated by Anu Chouhan, Bharatanatyam in Ballet Shoes is a celebratory dance-inclusive children’s book that joins the ranks of recently published titles such as Zuri Ray Tries Ballet and Let’s Dance!
Paro peers into a ballet class, wondering aloud to her mother if she will be terrible at ballet. Paro’s mother reassures her that she will be fine; after all, she comes from a family of dancers! At home with her mother, Paro dances Bharatanatyam, a form of Indian classical dance, but she feels wholly unprepared for the style of ballet.
As Madame, the instructor, begins the class, Paro finds herself standing out from the other children, but not in the way she had hoped. She feels her inclinations and moves are clearly not those of a fairy-like ballerina, and at the end of class, Paro tells her mother that it isn’t possible to become a Bharatanatyam queen as well as a ballet fairy: she must drop Bharatanatyam in favour of practising ballet.
The story moves into its lively, show-stopping finale as a guest surprises everyone at Paro’s next ballet class: Paro’s mom strides in, showcasing her riveting Bharatanatyam dancing, while Madame catches Paro completely off guard by joining in, illustrating the possibilities of learning and performing both styles of dance. While the beginning of Bharatanatyam in Ballet Shoes begins at a tentative (if not slightly meandering) pace, Jain and Chouhan’s picture book is an altogether appealing read that delights as it enlightens.
Back matter includes author Mahak Jain’s fascinating and educational behind-the-scenes look at the meeting of Bharatanatyam dance icon Rukmini Devi Arundale (Paro’s favourite dancer) and Russian prima ballerina Anna Pavlova – and their lifelong influence on each other’s dancing. Also included are notes regarding the word origins of “ballet” and “Bharatanatyam,” as well as guides for how to make one’s own ghungroo (the anklet bells worn by Paro’s mother in the book).
Bharatanatyam in Ballet Shoes is a lovingly told and presented story, sure to captivate those interested in dance as it highlights the artistry and respective beauty of two esteemed classical dance styles.