Told in interconnecting stories, Ballroom is a beautifully crafted debut novel—reminiscent of the works of Elizabeth Strout and Jennifer Haigh—about a group of strangers united by a desire to escape their complicated lives, if only for a few hours each week, in a faded New York City dance hall.
Time has eroded the glamour of the Ballroom, but at the end of the 1990s, a small crowd of loyal patrons still makes its way past the floor-to-ceiling columns which frame the once grand hall each Sunday evening. Sweeping across the worn parquet floor under a peeling indigo ceiling, these men and women succumb to the magic of the music, looking for love and connection, eager to erase the drab reality of their complicated lives.
Nearly forty and still single, Sarah Dreyfus is desperate for love and sure she’ll find it with debonair Gabriel Katz, a dazzling peacock who dances to distract himself from his crumbling marriage. Tired of the bachelor life, Joseph believes that his yearning for a wife and family will be fulfilled—if only he can get Sarah to notice him. Besotted with beautiful young Maria Rodriguez, elderly dance instructor Harry Korn knows they can find happiness together. Maria, one of the Ballroom’s stars, has a dream of her own, a passion her broken-hearted father refuses to accept or understand.
As the rhythms of the Ballroom ebb and flow through these characters’ hearts, their fates come together in touching, unexpected ways.
MY REVIEW: A poignant character study, "Ballroom", pulses with the underlying rhythm of the Tango dance. Author Alice Simpson's debut work centers around a New York dance hall of the late 1990's--long past its glamorous heyday, but still offering an essence of grandeur and the hope of grand dreams. Connecting its devotees with a fleeting reprieve from the realities of daily life, the Ballroom is an escape route set to a rhythmic beat. Among those linked together in interconnected storylines are: Harry Korn, the aging dance master; Sarah Dreyfus, single and approaching forty with a loudly ticking clock; Gabriel Katz, resplendent in his self-styled presentations; Joseph, who longs for Sarah to notice him as more than a dance partner; Maria Rodriguez,a star in her own right, and the apple of dance master's eye; and Angel Morez, Maria's partner, and a man with many plans of his own. Caught up in the atmosphere and ambiance of the grand old Ballroom, each of them seeks their own version of time in the spotlight--time to dance, to dream, to dare to engage in something more than the routine of their everyday lives. Each of them will experience unimagined highs and lows as they are propelled ever forward by the driving force of the dance.
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A graphic designer and illustrator, Alice also taught at F.I.T., SVA, and Parsons, and is frequently invited to speak about the influence of dance in her work.
As a result of the publication of her debut novel, BALLROOM, (Harper/HarperCollins-2014), Alice has dusted off her tango shoes and is taking private lessons.
The first four chapters of BALLROOM received second place for fiction in 2013 at the SF Writers Conference. A chapter from BALLROOM was nominated by The Writer’s Voice (NY) for Best New American Voices. Chapters have appeared in WV (Writer's Voice Magazine, NY), Words & Images Journal (U. of Maine), TangoDanza Magazine (Berlin), and in a limited edition, Tango Bar.