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In The Wings - Trials and Transformation of the Alien Ballerina

By Denise Stephani

In The Wings - Trials and Transformation of the Alien Ballerina Cover Image

“Dance saved my life. It helped me survive and escape after sixteen years under the Regime of a Psychopathic Dictator - my father.” 

Within the South African Apartheid Regime, Denise was locked into domestic slavery – a box within a box.  She was only allowed to go to school, ballet and her parent’s places of work when it suited him: to create an impression of normality. 

Like the Austrian Fritzl girl, she had to play his sick game and fight him off every day.  The boxer needed a sparring partner.  If he had the money to build a soundproof cellar she may well have found herself in one… but the invisible walls and chains were there.  He was obsessed with Hitler and ran their home like a Brown Shirt concentration camp.  Every day was hell, a constant threat of death.  But she found coping strategies…

She wore the mask, educated herself and danced using humour to still the pain. Denise created a miraculous and inspiring self-transformation to become a ballerina, community worker and reformer. But all the while she had her dark, obsessed ‘Phantom of the Ballet’ waiting in the wings…

She shares her timeous story of survival and dancing into success - out of extreme abuse and poverty within a Depression and harsh Patriarchy. She also offers funny African Theatre anecdotes, travel notes on Scotland, early film scripts - and the thought provoking ponderings of outrageous friend, Jasmine Rose.

Throughout her 40-year career, first as amateur then professional, Denise has worked as a dance performer, director, choreographer, producer, entertainment consultant, community artist and educator.

She created Butterfly Haven Castle – a centre for Youth and Survivors and was the mentor and initiator of the first Chapters of the International Network, Free the Children in South Africa. www.freethechildren

For years, Ms. Stephani has worked as the director of the BYCIA Dance and Mixed Media Company. She creates educational programmess and workshops to teach others to use dance and the arts as tools for citizenship and to overcome personal issues.


Proceeds from the sales of this book go to the Butterfly Haven Children's Fund


A review from C. Burgess B.Sc. (Australia):

I am so honoured to have read this beautiful, spiritual and utterly horrifying life story of Denise. What an evil man. I am starting understand how survivors like Denise are still recovering from what their care givers have done to them, and are still doing to them. (I will always have my support, love and respect, for those who speak out, even though they are still in fear for their lives). The people who know me, know that I am not a great reader. However, I finished this book in less to three days; I had tears, laughter - and utter bewilderment at what happened to Denise, and I am starting to see how many more victims of abuse there are and what they have to do to be a survivor.

“In The Wings”, is going to be a very important book not just for general reading, plus the arts and dance, but most importantly for other abuse victims to help them come forward and tell their story so that the world can change and become a safer place, where abusers can’t hide in the silence. Denise is more than a survivor/heroine to abuse victims; she is special to all. 

I am so overwhelmed with her strength and spirit and cannot wait for the next book of ‘The Venus Rising Trilogy’ , ‘Letters to Mandela’ and all the rest of her books. 




Paperback ISBN: 9781780353609

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