Carol Scott, a promising young dancer, gets a prominent role in a ballet “The Enchanted King” produced by the Del Solta Ballet Company. Her friend Alison Taylor, has a smaller part in the production. On opening night, tragedy strikes when a chandelier breaks loose and injures Carol. She is heartbroken when the accident leaves her blind but Alison, is determined to help Carol dance again — even if it means giving up her own chance in ballet. When the Del Solta Ballet Company are to go on tour, Alison chooses to leave the company, so she can stay with Carol. She gets a job in a coffee shop and finds herself and Carol lodgings. Carol is still despondent after the accident, so Alison knows she must soon put her plan in action, to get Carol dancing again. By volunteering to give ballet lessons at a youth club she is given permission to use the hall when it is free. After a first failed attempt of blocking out the stage in boxes and trying to get Carol to memorize the steps, Alison get the better idea to make the markings in tape and have Carol dance barefoot so she can feel the stage, this is more successful.
Carol soon gains confidence and can can dance without the tape aids. When a chance arises with a small ballet company, the Beaumont Ballet Company, the girls plan for Carol to audition before revealing her sight loss. As the stage will be a different size to what they have practiced on, they have to sneak in to practice before the audition.Unknown to them, a reporter, Peter Gough, sees them practicing and wants to investigate further and find out what their secret is. At the audition Carol succeeds in getting the soloist part, with no one suspecting her disability. Another ballerina, Freda Winters, is not happy as she wanted her friend, Gladys Payne, to get the part. There is more trouble brewing, as Peter is reporting on the audition and he notices Carol doesn’t blink at bright flash of a camera and he figures out she is blind. This is a big story for him and Carol’s secret makes the front page of the newspaper the next day. Simon Sands, the company manager, calls Carol in and tells her he will have to let her go as the company can’t afford a flop. But his mind is quickly changed when a large queue forms to see the show with the blind ballerina. Everyone helps out with Carol and the show is a great success, but not everything is rosy as now Carol has a secret enemy in Freda.
At a very important show, Freda sets out to make a fool of Carol by standing out of place. Luckily Carol hears her new position, due to a creak on the floor and is able to adjust accordingly. Freda gets a talking to by Madame Richter, but nobody suspects it was anything other than an accident. Next, Mr Sands has big news about their next production “The Peasant Prince”, an American film maker will be coming to watch and may include the ballet in his film about British life, which would be great publicity for the small company. He tells only Carol and Alison about this and he wants to keep it quiet, so he is not happy with the news is leaked. He blames, Carol and Alison, when in fact Freda is at fault as she had overheard their conversation and made an anonymous call to reporter. Alison find out when the call was made and luckily her and Carol are cleared as they have an alibi for that time. The leak turns out to be in their favour when Olga Merrova, a prima ballerina that had danced Carol’s part in “The Peasant Prince”, is touched by the story of the blind ballerina and comes to help.
After this, Jack Weston, the American film maker wants to film the company and takes them to big house in the country where he is staying. In one room all his film is left hanging, where nobody is allowed enter.. Freda tricks Carol taking down the sign, so she can’t feel it but once inside Carol notices her mistake and knows she’ll have to move very carefully to avoid damaging the film. Then she notices a leak and ends up saving the film from more damage. Freda knows that Gladys caused the leak by leaving the taps on and while Gladys has not stopped Freda’s tricks before this, now Freda uses this to blackmail her into being more active in getting rid of Carol. Freda tries to change tactics and become friendly with Carol, so she can spot opportunities to get rid of her. On a warm day she suggests they have lunch on the roof and then has Gladys call Alison away. She then leaves the fire escape gate open and pretends to tie her shoe lace, with the intention that Carol will fall down the steps, which she would have done if not for Alison returning just in time. Her next trick can’t be passed off as an accident, as pretending to be Alison she does Carol’s makeup for a serious production, making her a clown. Again luckily Alison finds her and fixes her makeup in time, but now they both know, Carol has a secret enemy and they have a clue as Freda was wearing a strong perfume. After tracking down the perfume brand, they cleverly figure out it is Freda. Carol thinks back on the other incidents and realises what she thought were accidents, were actually planned.
They need evidence to bring to Mr Sands, in the meantime Carol’s confidence is shaken as she can’t trust Freda and still has to work with her. Soon after Freda ends up outing herself, after another trick she plays. After locking Carol in her dressing room, Carol accidentally brushes against electric fire, setting her costume on fire. Everyone rushes to help, after hearing her shouts for help and Mr Sands finds a flower from Freda’s costume in the room. Confronted Freda admits locking but denies having anything to do with the fire. She is of course dismissed from the production but that is not the end, as now she’s even more determined to get back at Carol. Gladys is still friendly with Freda and let’s her know what is going on in the production, including Carol taking over Freda’s part. Freda wants Gladys to give her access to backstage but she is reluctant to be involved in the vendetta she only agrees after Freda blackmails her. Freda loosens a platform that Carol has to leap from, causing her to fall on opening night, but it has an unexpected side affect of bringing back her sight. While this is wonderful news for Carol, it does leave Alison wondering what her place is, she was never as good a dancer as Carol and without practice all her work is lost. Meanwhile Mr Sands has been investigating what happened to the platform and Gladys confesses and apologies to Carol for her part in it. After this Carol finally gets Alison to confess her unhappiness, but it turns out Mr Sands does still have a part for her in company. All her work with Carol has led her to become a good choreographer and arranger, so they both can stay with the company and embark on their new ballet careers.
The Blind Ballerina‘s popularity probably led to the many stories with girls facing similar obstacles. It is a set -up that is ripe for drama, as an underdog story, a girl pursuing what she loves and not letting her disability stop her from succeeding, not to mention other obstacles such as jealous rivals or prejudiced people. Jinty had it’s own “Blind Ballerina” story, but there were also blind girls wanting to compete in ice-skating, running and tennis such as in “The Courage of Wendy Evans” (Diana), “Running Blind” (Tracy), and “Becky Never Saw the Ball” (Tammy) and there were many other similar stories with other disabilities. While the premise might seem unbelievable, The Blind Ballerina is well plotted and the inventive ways Carol learns to dance in this new situation is inspiring, as are those who support her. We want to see Carol succeed and are happy when she does, so it’s pity the positivity of that message is a bit undermined when Carol gets her sight back (after a convenient bump to the head, cure of all illnesses in these comics!). It seems the only way she could be truly successful, is for her to get her sight back and yes, realistically her dancing would be limited if she stayed blind but as the story had already showed, she could still have success and happiness, with the support of those around her. Still the reader would be glad that Carol (and Alison) got a happy ending.
While Carol is the” blind ballerina” of the title, there are really two protagonists in this story and Alison is actually the more active character at times, particularly at the start of the story. She is the one to take the initiative to get Carol dancing again and coming up with solutions to make it work. There is sort of parallel between there stories, as Carol believes after the accident she will never dance again until Alison helps her, then when Carol gets her sight back it seems Alison won’t be able to have a dancing career. It is quite devastating blow for Alison as she has sacrificed so much for Carol, and she is realistically upset that it has left her with no future. Luckily she finds another satisfying career path in ballet, thanks to her work with Carol (and arguably a more suited career for her).
Both Carol and Alison are smart characters, but even they take some time to figure out someone is against Carol, but that is more due to being Freda being very crafty, at least in the start. By deliberately messing up Carol’s make up, Freda slips up as now it is obvious that Carol has an enemy, which leads to her downfall, whereas the first tricks could have been dismissed as accidents. It’s funny that initially Freda’s vendetta against Carol is on behalf of her friend Gladys. It is later that her own jealousy grows and she starts feeling threatened by Carol and of course after Freda is dismissed, Carol does get her part. Gladys doesn’t seem as upset about Carol getting her part in the first audition, though she has no interest in being friendly with her, she is not plotting revenge. She does nothing to stop Freda’s tricks, but she does have to be blackmailed into participating in them. It’s a wonder how she stays friends with Freda, though she seems to be a more easily led and doesn’t have a lot of sense. While she has to be coerced into confessing at the end she is genuinely remorseful for her part, unlike Freda.
This is an enjoyable read, the story is well plotted and paced, it doesn’t rush the ending and the main characters are all pretty well developed. The art is also gorgeous (I think it’s Paddy Brennan? if anyone can confirm) and I particularly like the title boxes that depict the main characters and hints at events in the story. It’s unsurprising that it had several reprints, one of which was as a Judy classic in M&J, the only ballet story to appear in that comic.