Review: Where Snowflakes Dance and Swear – Inside the Land of Ballet

jack6.000x9.000.inddOkay, ballet fans – be honest. How awesome would it be to spend an entire year exploring the inner-workings of one of the world’s most celebrated ballet companies?

Just think: You would observe countess rehearsals, exhilarating performances, daily classes, nerve-wracking auditions and necessary board meetings. You would get to know the dancers and their artistic director, the stage hands, lighting directors, costume designers, marketers, fundraisers – even catch a glimpse of a few dance moms and their children.

Every question would be answered. Every rumor laid to rest. Absolutely no one (and nothing) would be off limits!  It would be a dream come true, right?

Well, give yourself a good pinch because trust me – you’re awake and your wish has been granted! In his newest book, Where Snowflakes Dance and Swear, best-selling author, Stephen Manes pulls back the gilded stage curtain and shares what it was like to spend a year with Seattle’s own Pacific Northwest Ballet.

Four years in the making, Where Snowflakes Dance and Swear isn’t just another textbook-ish tome; it instead reveals just how ballets are produced, marketed, and funded. In short, this beefy book – with all of its juicy gossip and first-hand dancer accounts – boldly goes where no balletomane has gone before!

Through Manes’ watchful eye, you’ll discover many facets and secrets of the Land of Ballet such as: What it takes to keep the holiday cash-cow known as Nutcracker running year after (endless) year; how the company survived its most tumultuous, injury plagued and downright stressful staging of Roméo et Juliette; the harsh reality of “body is destiny”, and just how much a dancer will (can?) put up with – physically and emotionally – before calling it quits.

You will be a fly on the wall during artistic director, Peter Boal’s most difficult decisions and discover why he and others in his position must be “willing to be hated”. You’re there as members of the “Who’s Who in Choreography” (Christopher Wheeldon, Twyla Tharp, Jaime Martinez, and Bernice Coppieters), give corrections and guidance for proper staging of their work. You’ll also witness the drama that surrounds a dancer’s life – the fiery contentions, the painful jealousies and cherished friendships.

Also revealed are the accounts from Pacific Northwest Ballet School students, as well as those from the oftentimes unsung “heroes of the pit” – orchestra pit, that is.

Now although PNB is certainly at the book’s center, Where Snowflakes Dance and Swear is by no means exclusive to the Seattle crowd. In fact, this literary work of art (not exaggerating!) could have just as easily been written about any other top ballet company, from New York to London. Because no matter how you slice it, a dancer’s needs, desires, fears and frustrations are the same.

Quite honestly, I cannot say enough great things about this book. Its exciting and insanely in-depth coverage of “life on the inside” is exactly what tired, musty-dusty dance library shelves have been craving for years! Stephen Manes has done an excellent job at conveying all the intricacies of a ballet company’s success, without sacrificing a single note from the chorus of countless artistic voices behind it. (Bravo!)

From union mandates to marketing strategies, to painful injuries to exhausting perfectionism, Where Snowflakes Dance and Swear leaves no stone left unturned and is an absolute must for the die-hard ballet fan!

To read excerpts (Come on, you know you’re dying to!) and to purchase a copy of the book in either hardcover or digital format, please visit Where Snowflakes Dance and Swear.com

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