Leap is a coming of age story about a teenage girl, Natalie, living in British Columbia with her mother and younger sister. Natalie deals with many of the problems teenagers do – a boyfriend who pressures her into sex, a difficult friendship with a destructive classmate, and just fitting in and figuring out who she is. In addition, her father has recently divorced her mother and moved across the country to Toronto. She hardly ever sees him and feels abandoned by him. Her mother, who often seems more interested in books than her daughters, has begun a romantic relationship with another woman. Natalie takes after school dance classes with her friends and her teacher, Ms. Kelly, doesn’t much like her and seems to enjoy really picking on her. The classes consist of several types of dance, including ballet, but the group is working mainly on a jazz routine for an end of the year performance. Natalie feels uncomfortable with the choreography, which the way it’s described, sounds very Fosse-esque, very sexed-up.
Along comes a young co-teacher, Petra Moss, whom Ms. Kelly has hired to choreograph a ballet for the final show. Love the name! Kept picturing Petra Murgatroyd from Burn the Floor. Much to Natalie’s surprise (and Ms. Kelly’s) Petra immediately takes a liking to Natalie. Petra’s choreography is actually more modern than ballet and there’s a humorous little tiff between Ms. Kelly and Petra about whether toe shoes will be used, but suffice it to say, modern feels much more comfortable to Natalie’s body. Petra encourages Natalie to feel the movement, to make it organic and natural, so as to really express herself through it. She invites her to improvise. From Ms. Lundgren’s descriptions of Petra’s classes, they even sound a bit Gaga-esque.
Basically, through dance Natalie learns to deal with all of the confusing things happening in her life. One of my favorite parts of the novel is when Natalie’s parents attempt to support her by attending her first professional performance. She’s thrilled. But then it becomes clear that they don’t really understand her commitment, or her art. An older gay male dancer who befriends her tells her it’s okay; family and friends won’t always understand you. So, you can create a new family of those who do.
It’s a sweet story that teenage girls in general, and anyone who’s ever danced, will appreciate.