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The Flamenco Academy    by Sarah Bird order for
Flamenco Academy
by Sarah Bird
Order:  USA  Can
Ballantine, 2007 (2006)
Hardcover, Softcover

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* *   Reviewed by Kerrily Sapet

The Flamenco Academy by Sarah Bird begins quietly and quickly crescendos to the rhythms and the beats of whirling music. As the story opens, shy seventeen-year-old Cyndi Rae Hrncir and 'Dirty Deeds' Didi Steinberg are drawn together when they meet at the oncologist's office for their fathers' appointments. As their fathers' cancers progress and their mothers unravel, Didi and Rae cling together forming their own support group. Then one night at a party, Rae meets Tomás Montenegro, whose good looks and flamenco guitar style entrance her. Unbeknownst to Rae, Tomás is the declared heir to the flamenco realm, yet living with a secret.

When Tomás disappears, Rae throws herself into the flamenco world. Didi, who has always dreamed of stardom, follows along to support her friend. When Rae discovers her flamenco class is taught by her love's great-aunt, Doña Carlota, she is entranced. Slowly Doña Carlota tells her story as the girls learn the intricate steps and passion of flamenco. She dubs the pair ice (Rae) and fire (Didi), claiming that together they would make the perfect dancer. Driven by different desires Rae and Didi gradually move apart, until Tomás appears at the university to audition dancers. The three become locked in a triangle of obsessions, each one holding the key to the others' hearts.

Sarah Bird's story equals the drama of the dance she describes. At times a fast paced staccato, at other times gentle as a lullaby, The Flamenco Academy reveals secret desires and betrayals. While giving a sense of the history of flamenco, the novel also intrigues and compels as it dances towards its conclusion.

2nd Review by Sally Selvadurai:

DiDi Steinberg and Cyndi Rae Hrncir (Rae) are polls apart, girls brought together by the illnesses of their fathers. DiDi is the school rebel, a groupie searching for stardom, while Rae is the new girl on the block, shy, home schooled, a natural follower. However, the events of a single night galvanize Rae into action; she has fallen head-over-heels for a handsome flamenco guitarist who leaves her world as abruptly as he entered it. Rae is determined to do the one thing that she believes will bring Tomás Montenegro back into her orbit – learn to become the best flamenco dancer in the New World.

Rae at first drags DiDi into the mesmerizing world of flamenco dance, but DiDi becomes hooked as she sees this as a means to her end – to become a star. She begins to write and recite poetry to the haunting rhythms of flamenco and is finally being recognized as the artist she has always desired becoming. Rae and DiDi devote their time and energy to flamenco, often just scraping by in their other college courses as they each pursue their dreams, listening to the spellbinding storytelling of Doña Carlota, Tomás's aunt. Doña Carlota keeps her students enthralled with her childhood stories of growing up among the cave-dwelling gypsies of Andalusia, all the while beating out the rich beat of flamenco puro, with its central theme: 'Dame la verdad' – Give me the truth.

DiDi, Rae and Tomás are all totally obsessed with finding their fate: DiDi with stardom, Rae with learning to be the best flamenco dancer and thus ensnaring Tomás, and Tomás with finding his own roots, his heritage. The three emerge as the brightest stars in the New World flamenco arena, but beneath this dazzling surface lurk secrets, longing and betrayal.

Even though The Flamenco Academy is filled with characters and events that are quite feasible, I found it a somewhat lightweight read, lacking real depth. However it is an interesting novel that allows the reader to explore the fascinating world of flamenco dance, and to understand to a certain extent its pull and attraction.

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