Ever since my thirteen year old son decided he wanted to be a professional ballet dancer, I have been trying to read anything I could get my hands on to learn more about the world of dance. There’s biographies and articles and blogs, but I have never before seen so much information about the world of ballet in one place. That is, until I read Where Snowflakes Dance and Swear.
In the introduction, Stephen Manes, a writer for Fortune Magazine, tells us that there two things he loves watching more than anything in the world: baseball and ballet. He charmingly compares the two and then goes on to explain how he wanted to learn about the goings on in the “Land of Ballet” and how he came up with the idea for the book. The Pacific Northwest Ballet (easily one of the five best companies in the United States) agreed to let Manes follow them around for a year and write about it. PNB had just acquired Peter Boals as artistic director from the New York City Ballet, and the company was moving in a new direction.
The introduction was exciting, but once I got past that into the day to day inner workings of the company, it became a challenge to read. Not because it was difficult, but because there were many parts that were boring. But then Manes would hit a topic that interested me, like budgeting, and marketing, and The Nutcracker! Then it would boring again, and then I’d read a background story that was fascinating. By a quarter of the way through I was convinced I should have been the editor. Instead of a strict, chronological play by play, Manes should have divided each chapter into themed topics.
By the half-way point, Manes really hit a good stride. I found just about everything from this point on interesting. And, because I’d gotten to know the dancers, I began to be interested in them, too. What started out as a two star book became a three star, and by the time I finished it, I just had to give it four stars. The ennui at the beginning and the sheer 912 page length made it impossible for me to grant it that fifth star, but I am so glad I stuck with it and read the whole thing. I don’t think a person would necessarily have to love dance to enjoy this book, but if you do, it’s a must read. If you don’t, just skim the parts that don’t interest you and read the parts that do. It really is worth it.
4 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2011