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Swan Dive: The Making of a Rogue Ballerina

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Award-winning New York City Ballet soloist Georgina Pazcoguin, aka the Rogue Ballerina, gives readers a backstage tour of the real world of elite ballet—the gritty, hilarious, sometimes shocking truth you don’t see from the orchestra circle. Swan Dive pitches us into the fascinating, dizzying lives of the dancers in one of the most revered ballet companies in the world. Geo Award-winning New York City Ballet soloist Georgina Pazcoguin, aka the Rogue Ballerina, gives readers a backstage tour of the real world of elite ballet—the gritty, hilarious, sometimes shocking truth you don’t see from the orchestra circle. Swan Dive pitches us into the fascinating, dizzying lives of the dancers in one of the most revered ballet companies in the world. Georgina Pazcoguin, the New York City Ballet’s first Asian American soloist, tells her unfiltered story of leaving small-town Pennsylvania for New York City and training as a professional athlete, miles away from her parents, before finishing high school. Rocked by scandal in the wake of the #MeToo movement, NYCB sits at an inflection point, inching toward progress in a strictly traditional culture, and Pazcoguin doesn’t shy away from ballet’s dark side. She continues to be one of the few dancers openly speaking up against the sexual harassment, mental abuse, and racism that in the past went unrecognized or was tacitly accepted as par for the course—all of which she has painfully experienced firsthand. But along with her desire for justice and a deep respect for her craft, Pazcoguin has an unapologetic sense of humor about the cutthroat, literally survival-of-the-fittest culture of ballet. She relishes telling us about the torture (but economic necessity) that is the holiday “Nutbuster” season and holds nothing back in relaying the face-plants, backstage fights, and raucous company bonding sessions. You'll never see a ballerina, or a ballet, the same way again.


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Award-winning New York City Ballet soloist Georgina Pazcoguin, aka the Rogue Ballerina, gives readers a backstage tour of the real world of elite ballet—the gritty, hilarious, sometimes shocking truth you don’t see from the orchestra circle. Swan Dive pitches us into the fascinating, dizzying lives of the dancers in one of the most revered ballet companies in the world. Geo Award-winning New York City Ballet soloist Georgina Pazcoguin, aka the Rogue Ballerina, gives readers a backstage tour of the real world of elite ballet—the gritty, hilarious, sometimes shocking truth you don’t see from the orchestra circle. Swan Dive pitches us into the fascinating, dizzying lives of the dancers in one of the most revered ballet companies in the world. Georgina Pazcoguin, the New York City Ballet’s first Asian American soloist, tells her unfiltered story of leaving small-town Pennsylvania for New York City and training as a professional athlete, miles away from her parents, before finishing high school. Rocked by scandal in the wake of the #MeToo movement, NYCB sits at an inflection point, inching toward progress in a strictly traditional culture, and Pazcoguin doesn’t shy away from ballet’s dark side. She continues to be one of the few dancers openly speaking up against the sexual harassment, mental abuse, and racism that in the past went unrecognized or was tacitly accepted as par for the course—all of which she has painfully experienced firsthand. But along with her desire for justice and a deep respect for her craft, Pazcoguin has an unapologetic sense of humor about the cutthroat, literally survival-of-the-fittest culture of ballet. She relishes telling us about the torture (but economic necessity) that is the holiday “Nutbuster” season and holds nothing back in relaying the face-plants, backstage fights, and raucous company bonding sessions. You'll never see a ballerina, or a ballet, the same way again.

30 review for Swan Dive: The Making of a Rogue Ballerina

  1. 4 out of 5

    Petra wonders how life without books would be?

    Sadly, a dnf. I love ballet, I used to go to Covent Garden to see the Royal Ballet, I was hoping for something more than reportage of what the author did. I was hoping to read something about the internal structure of a ballet company, how it worked, some introspection even, since the author says she is, 'rogue' but I've read over half the book, and haven't seen that at all. She says she had to fight racism in the ballet company all the time. I'm not doubting her, but I don't see it in the few ex Sadly, a dnf. I love ballet, I used to go to Covent Garden to see the Royal Ballet, I was hoping for something more than reportage of what the author did. I was hoping to read something about the internal structure of a ballet company, how it worked, some introspection even, since the author says she is, 'rogue' but I've read over half the book, and haven't seen that at all. She says she had to fight racism in the ballet company all the time. I'm not doubting her, but I don't see it in the few examples she gave. She says she didn't get on with the director, Peter, who liked tall, thin blondes and his racism showed in demanding that her body type, mixed Filipino and white, conform to theirs. But then again she says that 'the fat talk' is pretty common, and he praised and promoted her for her ability. In fact her whole ballet life from childhood has been praise and promotion for her ability, artistry and what she calls her 'magic'. I'd love to see her dance, I don't really like videos of ballets, they don't convey the sheer physicality of it to me, just the artistry which is only half the story. The New York Times said the book was a page turner. It was right, I couldn't wait to turn them. It was a really uninteresting book but not an uninteresting author. She came across as a really nice and interesting person, someone who would be an absolute live wire, really good company. I expect the book was ghost-written. She needs a far better writer to tell her story. I'm sure in years to come, she will write another, and it will be more interesting and a better read than this rather shallow tome. A note on reviewing books. (view spoiler)[I have been told that I should be 'nicer' ie upgrade the stars and not write what I thought of the book to first-time authors. One lady told me that from her Facebook author groups, they want only 2 or 3 lines and 5 stars and I shouldn't rate anything less than 4. Who am I writing for? Am I writing to massage author's egos, am I writing to help their sales? If their ego can't handle criticism they shouldn't read reviews! And if it's to help sales - that is like saying scam money from gr members or my customers by pretending I thought the book was a better read than it was. I got a message from a GR friend with whom I am buddy-reading this book with and they said after Kate Clanchy and the drama she caused over deservedly negative reviews of Some Kids I Taught and What They Taught Me, they were just quietly leave the book without a review and suggested I do the same. I understand their point but you know, lies and nasty comments are not stick and stones, and I think Clanchy was one in millions. I'm sure this author, Ms Pazcoguin, is a lot more balanced and has moral standards. I wish I could rate it higher, but I didn't enjoy it. Don't let it put you off reading it though, it might be the right book for you. (hide spoiler)] "Adrenaline is a great fucking drug", is the first sentence of the introduction. That made me smile, 'rogue' is right! I wish the book had lived up to it for me, but the book didn't resonate with me.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jenna

    My knowledge of ballet consists of those few moves that consistently appear in crossword puzzles: "jete", "plie", and "eleve". I've never seen a ballet and the only thing that comes close is having watched the Natalie Portman movie "Black Swan" in which she plays a committed but tragic ballerina. I loved that movie and I also enjoy reading memoirs by people whose lives are very different from my own. Bonus points if I also learn new things. When I saw Swan Dive, I was immediately taken in by the My knowledge of ballet consists of those few moves that consistently appear in crossword puzzles: "jete", "plie", and "eleve". I've never seen a ballet and the only thing that comes close is having watched the Natalie Portman movie "Black Swan" in which she plays a committed but tragic ballerina. I loved that movie and I also enjoy reading memoirs by people whose lives are very different from my own. Bonus points if I also learn new things. When I saw Swan Dive, I was immediately taken in by the cover. Such a cool photo of the author! And since it's about ballet, something I don't know much about, I had to read it. With memoirs, I'm usually a love it or hate it person. This one has me firmly on the "love it" side. I was captivated from the beginning when Georgina (Gina) discovered a passion for ballet at the age of four. She takes us through her teen years and into adulthood, through her years in the School of American Ballet and later her career with the New York City Ballet company. I was enthralled throughout. I love Gina's writing style; it's intimate and sassy and revealing. The "f" word is used a bit too much... I got the sense she was trying to prove her "rogueness" but maybe she always f's this and f's that. Which is fine, I'm no prude. Fuck is one of my favourite words. It's satisfying and versatile. I think, however, that it's more powerful if infrequently used. Still, it's Gina's book, not mine. There's a lot to love about this memoir if you can handle the f bombs. Actually, they aren't bombs, there's too many of them. They're like little bb pellets after a while. I was shocked, and not shocked at the same time, to learn how prevalent misogyny and racism is in the ballet world. It's a tough business. Gina's strength amazed me, along with her drive and perseverance, traits that are required to excel as a ballerina. The mental abuse she endured over the years is horrific. And yet she prevailed, becoming the the New York City Ballet’s first Asian American soloist. There are several photos included in this book that inspired me to google even more. How anyone's body can bend into the positions ballerinas effortlessly (seemingly) display is beyond me. Ballet looks graceful and beautiful and yet underneath it all lurks a world that is often dark and ugly and brutal. I am in awe of Georgina's talent and fortitude and glad to have read this book.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Howard

    5 Stars for Swan Dive (audiobook) by Georgina Pazcoguin read by the author. This was a wonderful glimpse into the world of ballet. The author really opens up about what it takes to be a professional dancer. All of the hardships and successes. It’s hard for me to comprehend the dedication these dancers have for their art. They often start out as children beginning to hone their craft. I love getting to see ballet live and books like this help me appreciate what it takes to be a dancer.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Tammy

    Firstly, F bombs and MFers/ing don’t bother me when spoken. I’ve been known, on occasion, to drop a few myself. However, when in print they become tiresome. It appears that this unbelievably talented dancer at the elite NYCB seems to think that F bombs constitute going rogue. For the most part, she toed the line under the artistic direction of tyrannical Peter Martins. This understandable given Martins power to make or break a career that requires decades of dedication, sacrifice, and pain. Did Firstly, F bombs and MFers/ing don’t bother me when spoken. I’ve been known, on occasion, to drop a few myself. However, when in print they become tiresome. It appears that this unbelievably talented dancer at the elite NYCB seems to think that F bombs constitute going rogue. For the most part, she toed the line under the artistic direction of tyrannical Peter Martins. This understandable given Martins power to make or break a career that requires decades of dedication, sacrifice, and pain. Did I mention pain? Acutely self aware, she recognizes her complicity. While Pazcoguin never diminishes her deep respect for her art and other artists, she pulls no punches about the physically and mentally abusive environment that is the rarefied world of being a member of NYCB. She also takes on the blatant racism that is pervasive within ballet. In addition, she provides more than a glimpse at the life of a ballerina from the corps to soloist and she does this with wit, unabashed honesty, and a bit of mischief that releases tension within her stressful sphere. If you ever have the opportunity to see her dance take it because this woman can dance like a MFer.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    Swan Dive by Georgina Pazcoguin is an amazing memoir that gives the reader an insider look at the captivating world of professional ballet. Once upon a time, many years ago I was a ballet dancer focusing specifically on pointe. Was I ever going to be professional? Oh, definitely not. However, my love and passion for this art and the profound athletic ability and discipline needed will never falter. That is why I knew I had to read this gem. The author takes us deep within the NYCB and gives us a l Swan Dive by Georgina Pazcoguin is an amazing memoir that gives the reader an insider look at the captivating world of professional ballet. Once upon a time, many years ago I was a ballet dancer focusing specifically on pointe. Was I ever going to be professional? Oh, definitely not. However, my love and passion for this art and the profound athletic ability and discipline needed will never falter. That is why I knew I had to read this gem. The author takes us deep within the NYCB and gives us a look at what it takes to take things to the next level. She also gives us a peak on some of the other disappointing aspects that have taken place: racism, intimidation, unneeded pressure, and some of the darker elements that have ran rampant in the past. Through it all she has overcome many obstacles, fought many battles (some that are totally unacceptable to begin with), and has survived to tell her story. This is honest, raw, real, passionate, and fascinating. I highly recommend it. 5/5 stars Thank you NG and Henry Holt & Company for this wonderful arc and in return I am submitting my unbiased and voluntary review and opinion. I am posting this review to my GR and Bookbub accounts immediately and will post it to my Amazon, Instagram, and B&N accounts upon publication.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Carin

    I did ballet from about age 5 until I was a freshman in high school, and then I did another semester in college. I was never good. At all. I am completely inflexible, have terrible turnout, and a couple of physical therapist have said I'm the worst pronator they've ever seen (meaning, I really, really roll over on my arches.) I actually was decent at pointe. The shoes didn't hurt me much at all, and my balance was okay. I never face-planted in center work, and I didn't have bleeding toes. But th I did ballet from about age 5 until I was a freshman in high school, and then I did another semester in college. I was never good. At all. I am completely inflexible, have terrible turnout, and a couple of physical therapist have said I'm the worst pronator they've ever seen (meaning, I really, really roll over on my arches.) I actually was decent at pointe. The shoes didn't hurt me much at all, and my balance was okay. I never face-planted in center work, and I didn't have bleeding toes. But that's not enough to make up for everything else. That's okay though. I think we shouldn't quit something just because we don't excel. After all, someone has to be in the corps. Someone has to play right field (my sister also sucked at softball and yet played it for a decade.) Not everyone can be a prima ballerina, but that doesn't mean everyone else should quit. And yet, I know a bit about professional ballet as I have two cousins who excelled for a long time--one danced the Mouse King role in the Nutcracker in New York (I don't know with which production) and another danced with the Joffrey for several years, also in New York. The latter is still dancing modern professionally, in her mid-30s, which is impressive as hell. Tl;dr I gravitate towards a book on ballet like a magnet. I downloaded this book the day it was available, the same day it was added to the catalog. I started reading it that night. Wow, Gina is not like any of the ballet dancers I have known. All of my colleagues were pretty quiet introverts. Neither of my cousins are especially wild or crazy. Gina Pazcoguin is a ball of electricity. She worked her butt off day and night and then would go out partying after. (Only once did she come to class the next morning without going to bed first, but once was enough to impress me!) While she comes across as less rigid and workaholic as Misty Copeland, she obviously is--she just doesn't focus on it. I think the workaholism comes more naturally to Gina and therefore she doesn't think about it as much, it just is. She mentions recovering from a stress fracture in her foot in passing, and a dozen other injuries which she doesn't dwell on at all (so when she does talk about one in any detail, you know it was serious!) She does really get into the casting and the backstage politics, and how there's an A cast and a B cast for each show, and boy the B cast is... differently complected than the A cast. Yikes. And yet, if you complain, you'll be cut entirely. Because she's half Filipina, she's usually cast as the villain, the joke, or in the background if it's a more classical ballet, which the management at the New York City Ballet thinks she can't do, because they won't cast her in it. (She's danced the Sugar Plum Fairy a bunch of times... in other cities for other companies as a freelance gig. She really can do it.) Just to show how messed up things were there, until LAST YEAR, the bosses were referred to as "Ballet Masters." Seriously. "Masters." Now they are "Rehearsal Directors" which makes much more sense, thank you for joining us in the 21st century, 20 years late. Gina does fight for more equity for dancers of color, but it's a dangerous battle as it very well might mean her job. Not to mention the people she's fighting can and do undermine her self-esteem at every opportunity, which is an excellent way to keep underlings firmly under your thumb. In almost no other job can someone 20 pounds underweight be told that her thighs are too fat and she should do her job--which requires about 12 hours a day of athleticism--on 600 calories a day. No wonder things are so messed up in the world of ballet--can you imagine the hanger? When EVERYONE is doing that? So come along for the ride! It's a wild and crazy story and Gina's not done yet. She's now performed in a few Broadway shows, which is unusual for a ballet dancer (and was eye-opening as she saw how the cast of "Cats" was treated so well and fairly and wasn't overworked and underpaid and sexually harassed.) She's worked on revivals and a very cool program to try to recreate dances from very early Broadway that never were recorded or written down. She's the first Asian-American soloist for the New York City Ballet, and boy did she work hard for that. Will she ever get the recognition she deserves? I don't know, but I will now seek her out in performances. What a badass.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Paul Olkowski

    If you think reading this book is just a waste of your time reading about some boring ballerina and the snooty art lovers of New York City, you are totally off base and do not have any idea of what this book is about. Georgina Pazcoguin grew up as a little girl in love with dance and ballet in Altona, PA. She was good enough at the local classes to win a scholarship to the School of American Ballet in NYC in her early teens. Basically on her own in high school in New York City had a profound ef If you think reading this book is just a waste of your time reading about some boring ballerina and the snooty art lovers of New York City, you are totally off base and do not have any idea of what this book is about. Georgina Pazcoguin grew up as a little girl in love with dance and ballet in Altona, PA. She was good enough at the local classes to win a scholarship to the School of American Ballet in NYC in her early teens. Basically on her own in high school in New York City had a profound effect on her. It made her brave, adventurous, and wanting to get better and better at what she always wanted; a chance to be a premiere ballerina in the big time of NYC. She was good enough at SAB to be selected for a try out with New York City Ballet company. The big time. These 100 select people range in age from 16 to 40 and put on about 100 performances a year in NYC and tours in Europe and Japan. To stay on the NYCB you must become basically a professional athlete equal in part to the NBA and NFL. You are judged on every practice and every performance and your dance time is handed out accordingly. You must work your way up the ladder to the first team and soloist slots just as you would in pro sports. As a matter of fact these people who make up the company of NYCB are every bit the athletes that the big time professional football stars are. Probably better. Gina gives details of what they have to go through to practice and perform in the ballet shows where the rules are no missing practices or else, keeping in tip top shape or else, and performing when you are hurt or hurting or else. This is a biography not so much about Gina as it is a biography about a JOB! Gina's ability to tell a story and give you a feel of what the company players go through is what makes the book especially enjoyable . I was really interested in their training methods and their ability to maintain stamina throughout the week and perform sometimes 2 and 3 shows a day during the Christmas season when the tourist season is hot and they are on demand as a staple of NYC couture. She weaves her stories with humor and behind the scenes mayhem, along with New York City Cussin'. It often comes in the heat of a moment or during a slip up or fall she takes. She also details her bosses there. NYCB was run for many years by Peter Martins a my way or the highway kind of guy who ruled NYCB with an iron fist. She was always on the look out for Peter who kept holding her back from what she wanted in the shows or in her career. She was good enough however, that he could not hold her forward progress back forever. If you have ever witnessed ballet in person, you are seeing only a fraction of what these dancers go through. Every teenager who wishes to make the big time should read this book. It will give them a roadmap of what they have to do and what will be expected of them in a career of professional everyday ballet. I did not want the story to end. I enjoyed reading it as someone who also cares very deeply about what I do in life with my job. There are many similar things that have happened to me in my life with professionalism, and dedication speeches given by superiors as either motivation or threats. I understood this book completely and I have never ever been to the ballet or had any interest in the artform. I however do RESPECT every single performer one hundred fold more now than before reading this biography. I tip my hat to Gina who got to live out the life she wanted when she was a child. Very few people in life ever could say that and say they were happy doing it. 4 stars for SWAN DIVE by GEORGINA PAZCOUGUIN. A very enjoyable book.

  8. 4 out of 5

    britt_brooke

    Georgina Pazcoguin, the Rogue Ballerina, lays bare her life as the first Asian American soloist in the New York City Ballet, a company - and profession - where blatant misogyny, emotional abuse, sexual misconduct, and racism are/were largely ignored and accepted as normal. She’s strong and honest and persisted through the bullshit. I loved the “Nutbuster” (Nutcracker) stories and her foray into Broadway. Solid memoir!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Bookoholiccafe

    Swan Dive by Georgina Pazcoguin was an amazing 5-star biography. Georgina has worked so hard to get to where she is now, and in her memoir, she uncovers her life as the first Asian American soloist ballet dancer. We learn how she left her hometown in Pennsylvania before finishing high school to be trained as a professional athlete in New York, away from her parents. Gina reveals the ugly truth about the institution, where dancers constantly deal with sexual transgression, discrimination, and emoti Swan Dive by Georgina Pazcoguin was an amazing 5-star biography. Georgina has worked so hard to get to where she is now, and in her memoir, she uncovers her life as the first Asian American soloist ballet dancer. We learn how she left her hometown in Pennsylvania before finishing high school to be trained as a professional athlete in New York, away from her parents. Gina reveals the ugly truth about the institution, where dancers constantly deal with sexual transgression, discrimination, and emotional abuse and how they are mostly ignored. I admired Gina’s energy and strength, and I really respected her courage to fight with Peter Martins, the former head of NYCB on these issues. I devoured this well-written, truthful, and humorous memoir. Many thanks to Henry Holt and Co. for this gifted copy.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Rosie Genova

    I had this book on pre-order and literally counted the days until it appeared on my Kindle. I devoured it in less than 48 hours. I've been a ballet fan, specifically New York City Ballet, since I was a teenager. I attended my first live City Ballet performance when I was in college, and saw Suzanne Farrell and yes, Peter Martins perform. (After reading about Martins in Pazcoguin's book, I'm sure re-thinking that full-length poster of him that adorned my dormitory room!) Pre-lockdown, I attended I had this book on pre-order and literally counted the days until it appeared on my Kindle. I devoured it in less than 48 hours. I've been a ballet fan, specifically New York City Ballet, since I was a teenager. I attended my first live City Ballet performance when I was in college, and saw Suzanne Farrell and yes, Peter Martins perform. (After reading about Martins in Pazcoguin's book, I'm sure re-thinking that full-length poster of him that adorned my dormitory room!) Pre-lockdown, I attended City Ballet a few times a year and was lucky enough to see Pazcoguin dance Coffee in The Nutcracker and Hippolyta in Midsummer Night's Dream, and she was a showstopper: vital, colorful, and fearless. And man, so is her book! Aside from being a candid, funny, and well-written memoir, it is dishy as hell. I recommend pulling up the NYCB company page, so when she refers to Lauren or Tyler or you know just whom she's talking about. And when it comes to Peter Martins, the NYCB's former director, she doesn't hold back. Nor should she. She balances the funny and gossipy tone with her slowly dawning knowledge that as a brunette, biracial, Asian-American woman, she would always be relegated to "exotic" roles. It led her to pioneer a movement to address Asian stereotypes in dance. If you've ever seen "Tea" in the Nutcracker, you know what I'm talking about. And speaking of Nutcracker, if you love that ballet as much as I do, prepare to have your illusions about this Christmas staple destroyed, one by one. So if you're a ballet fan--and even if you're not--this is one heck of a read. 4.5 stars. (Warning: lots of profanity, descriptions of nudity, accounts of verbal abuse and fat-shaming, and much shattering of Nutcracker magic.)

  11. 4 out of 5

    Eleni

    4.5✨ In my opinion, this book is one of the most important memoirs that could've graced the world of ballet. I quit ballet this year due to an auto-immune condition that I triggered from dancing through a stress fracture, two torn ligaments and a chronic eating disorder. I'm not saying this to get any sympathy. Quite frankly, after reading this, I'm glad that I didn't make it to the company level that Georgina is part of. Reading about the fun and wild nights was so entertaining, but laced with t 4.5✨ In my opinion, this book is one of the most important memoirs that could've graced the world of ballet. I quit ballet this year due to an auto-immune condition that I triggered from dancing through a stress fracture, two torn ligaments and a chronic eating disorder. I'm not saying this to get any sympathy. Quite frankly, after reading this, I'm glad that I didn't make it to the company level that Georgina is part of. Reading about the fun and wild nights was so entertaining, but laced with the trauma and abuse that is intertwined into the ballet world almost makes me feel as though I've dodged a bullet. As someone who left school in Year 9 to train full-time, I wish this book had come sooner. I always felt so alone when it came to body image and injury. "Why is she so naturally skinny?!" "How did she recover so fast from that sprain?" But this honest, raw book reassured me that I was never alone and every dancer conceals their struggles and puts up a front. While I was aware of the scandal that occurred in 2018 at NCYB, hearing it from the first person was alarming. It still happens in companies all over the world, and I really hope that dancers who read this book are able to identify when they are being emotionally abused by the director of the company (sadly, most of whom are men). I had an excellent time reading this book, and I love that Georgina broke down the wall between the subtle, graceful dancer that the audience sees and the 'rouge' ballerina that she really is. I felt seen and validated reading this, and I think if I had done my research as an impressionable 12-year-old, a dancer like Georgina may have been able to inspire me to be the dancer I wanted to be, not the dancer I thought I had to be in order to be valid. While the criticism for this book on Goodreads appears to be from non-dancers, I would highly encourage any ballet dancer from schools such as ENBS, RBS, SAB etc. to give this a read. I honestly think it would be the most beneficial to anyone in that elite dancer cohort, and hopefully dissuade you from making the same poor choices that Georgina and countless other dancers (myself included) have made. The only reason I removed 0.5 stars from my rating was that I felt some parts were a little redundant and repetitive. But I still had a good time reading it... so does it really matter??

  12. 5 out of 5

    Renee

    "Maybe we knew that when trying to forge ahead in one of the most competitive environments in the world, one doesn't always want complete clarity of mind." From Swan Dive 5 stars Warnings: sexual assault, adultry, eating disorders Fun and flippant prose is used to spill all sorts of tea in this fantastic memoir. There is a fair amount of ballet autobiographies that skip some of the juicy or controversial bits, and this was a refreshing deviation from that norm. You can see how Paz got the rep of be "Maybe we knew that when trying to forge ahead in one of the most competitive environments in the world, one doesn't always want complete clarity of mind." From Swan Dive 5 stars Warnings: sexual assault, adultry, eating disorders Fun and flippant prose is used to spill all sorts of tea in this fantastic memoir. There is a fair amount of ballet autobiographies that skip some of the juicy or controversial bits, and this was a refreshing deviation from that norm. You can see how Paz got the rep of being the "rogue ballerina". Pazcoguin grants readers an all access pass behind the scenes in a conversational way that makes you feel like you are catching up with a friend. She tackles some sensitive subjects with enough self awareness to recognize what her complicity has created. From her description of Balanchine's Theme and Variations, to confiding one wild performance where she danced topless after a costume malfunction, this book will keep you laughing and reading. Thank you to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Leslie Zemeckis

    Excellent - whether you are a dancer - a dance mom like me - or just an artist - a woman trying to be an artist despite the misogyny and racism

  14. 4 out of 5

    Bookreporter.com Biography & Memoir

    Everything is not “beautiful at the ballet,” to quote the famous number from “A Chorus Line” --- far from it, if you are to believe this exceptionally frank and often scathing book by dancer Georgina Pazcoguin, the first Asian-American female soloist in the history of New York City Ballet. I have been a fan of the company since the 1950s --- ever since I was a tubby little girl in red Mary Janes sitting mesmerized in the theater. I’ve seen star dancers come and go; founders George Balanchine and Everything is not “beautiful at the ballet,” to quote the famous number from “A Chorus Line” --- far from it, if you are to believe this exceptionally frank and often scathing book by dancer Georgina Pazcoguin, the first Asian-American female soloist in the history of New York City Ballet. I have been a fan of the company since the 1950s --- ever since I was a tubby little girl in red Mary Janes sitting mesmerized in the theater. I’ve seen star dancers come and go; founders George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins die; their replacement, Peter Martins, resign under a cloud of scandal; and a new directorial team emerge not long before the pandemic. And I’m a fan of Pazcoguin herself, a powerful and highly individual dancer who stands out from the tall blond “bunheads” in the company. Starting in 2017, there was an avalanche of gossip about an unhealthy culture for women at New York City Ballet, focusing on accusations of sexual harassment and abusive behavior on the part of artistic director Martins (who denied them all) and several prominent male dancers (only one returned to the company, and he is now about to retire). Pazcoguin’s account confirms all this and makes it personal, highlighting the many times she locked horns with Martins (clearly the villain of the piece) and suffered provocation from fellow dancers. She is admirably fair about the requirements of ballet, admitting that partnering can involve “nebulous” physical boundaries between man and woman (“[T]here sometimes is choreography where a man’s face will end up within intimate proximity to crotch”). Yet she insists on the difference between that and casual offstage insults: for example, being tongue-kissed by an older dancer in the elevator or having her nipples tweaked during class by someone who “assumed 24/7 access to my body.” SWAN DIVE, however, is not just a complaint about the “toxicity” of the ballet world. While Pazcoguin is clearly invested in portraying herself as a rebel, she also possesses enormous discipline, talent, drive --- and an evident love for her art. “When all the bullshit is swept aside,” she writes, being a ballerina is “complete and utter magic.” You read that right: Pazcoguin is fond of four-letter words. What makes her dance memoir unusual isn’t so much the subject matter --- others have dealt with body dysmorphia, eating disorders, injuries, sex, drugs, angst --- but her brash, irreverent voice. Ballet has such a pristine, formal image that it’s a shock (and, actually, rather refreshing) to see it described in such impudent terms. The early portions of SWAN DIVE, though, are pretty typical of a dance autobiography. A little girl or boy sees a performance and falls in love. The lucky and gifted are selected first for New York City Ballet’s elite academy, School of American Ballet, and then (maybe) for the company itself. Promotions from the corps de ballet follow --- or not. It’s when Pazcoguin gets to her years as a company member that her account takes on issues specific to Martins’ regime. The first is her body. In her very first “fat talk” with the boss, at age 17, he zeroed in on her thighs, which, according to him, weren’t thin enough. She resorted to an insane diet of 720 calories a day, developed bulimia and finally had liposuction. She has no regrets about the surgery, even though she feels that the aesthetics of ballet can and should encompass a degree of physical diversity. The second issue is Pazcoguin’s biracial identity (her father is Filipino). “[G]enerally, if you were a member of the New York City ballet and you had black hair, you could enjoy a career of dancing in the B cast or as an evil villain,” she writes. Her own typecasting was as “an ambiguously ethnic, badass female.” Martins refused to consider her for more purely classical roles and thought of her only in “character” parts like Maria in “West Side Story Suite.” In “The Nutcracker,” the annual moneymaker that she dubs “Nutbuster,” she was inevitably given the sultry Coffee solo or, even worse, the Chinese Tea dance, in its original form “over-the-top offensive.” Ultimately, she became an activist, founding, with arts advocate and author Phil Chan, an initiative called Final Bow for Yellowface, urging dance companies to banish Asian stereotypes. Many dancers don’t have a normal childhood or adolescence --- they sacrifice it all for ballet --- so as adults, according to Pazcoguin, they often go slightly wild in their time off. Thus SWAN DIVE devotes an awful lot of pages to unedifying subjects like the local dive bar; hangovers in company class; her affair with a married dancer; the rowdy coed-camp atmosphere in Saratoga, the company’s summer home, and on tour (do we really need a comprehensive list of her favorite international cities?). Other beefs: coy, annoying footnotes that could just as well be in the main text, and the italicized and numbered Swan Dives, or pratfalls, she inserts in the narrative (meant, I’m sure, to illustrate that ballerinas can be clumsy, too, but it’s a lame device). Pazcoguin is at her best when talking about the texture of a dancer’s everyday existence: class, rehearsal, performance. In a couple of cases she does a play-by-play of certain sequences in ballets I know and love, and it’s thrilling. But that brings me to an important question: Who, exactly, is this book for? Not little girls, that’s for sure, as it’s too bawdy. It’s probably a great read for fully fledged ballet-loving adults who want a racy peek behind the red velvet curtain and snowy tutus. On the other hand, it’s quite in-groupy and specialized; unless you’re already familiar with the company, it may not pack much of a punch. The appeal of SWAN DIVE may be broadened in the last part of the book, when Pazcoguin goes (temporarily) Broadway, appearing with American Dance Machine for the 21st Century (which performs excerpts from classic musicals) and in a starry revival of “Cats.” Could her “second act” lie in that world rather than at the ballet? Maybe. Now in her 30s, she doesn’t want to teach, the usual retirement path for dancers. “But,” she says, “I’ve got a biting wit and a real-estate license I’m not afraid to use.” Good for her. Georgina Pazcoguin is gutsy, resilient and a surprisingly vivid writer. I have the feeling that no matter where tomorrow takes her, she’ll stay on point. Reviewed by Katherine B. Weissman

  15. 4 out of 5

    Anita

    This non-fiction memoir is about a New York City Ballet ballerina and the challenges of that job and lifestyle. Lots of history about the ballet and dancers, this is an interesting look into the life of Georgina Pazcoguin, the first Asian-American principal in this ballet company. I listened to this as an audiobook, read by the author. I enjoyed the book, although I thought that some of the swearing was distracting from the story (it appeared contrived to me – I don’t mind swearing if it is nece This non-fiction memoir is about a New York City Ballet ballerina and the challenges of that job and lifestyle. Lots of history about the ballet and dancers, this is an interesting look into the life of Georgina Pazcoguin, the first Asian-American principal in this ballet company. I listened to this as an audiobook, read by the author. I enjoyed the book, although I thought that some of the swearing was distracting from the story (it appeared contrived to me – I don’t mind swearing if it is necessary). Otherwise a good read, mixed with current events such as the #metoo movement, history of ballet/dance, and both humorous and touching parts. 3/5 stars.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Elyse Mcnulty

    Georgina Pazcoguin takes us behind the scenes of the New York City Ballet. She shares her story of her start at 4 years old to being given a full scholarship to the School of American Ballet. Her experiences and the work and dedication to her art were evident on every page. If you are interested in ballet and have followed the NYCB (I have) this book is for you. Georgina is a fun story teller as well as someone who gets to the root of the issues/struggles in the cutthroat world of ballet. This s Georgina Pazcoguin takes us behind the scenes of the New York City Ballet. She shares her story of her start at 4 years old to being given a full scholarship to the School of American Ballet. Her experiences and the work and dedication to her art were evident on every page. If you are interested in ballet and have followed the NYCB (I have) this book is for you. Georgina is a fun story teller as well as someone who gets to the root of the issues/struggles in the cutthroat world of ballet. This story of the “Rogue Ballerina” was a great change from what I have been reading. Enjoy!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Denise

    I picked up Swan Dive just in time for my own ballerina reunion with my best friends from my dancing days with the Pennsylvania Ballet. On the way to my destination, I cracked open the book at the airport and couldn't put it down. I finished reading it by the time I landed and passed it on to my friends to read. (who are also loving it!). I immediately loved Georgina's writing. She is brutally honest, laugh out loud funny, and tender and reverent to her art form. The love is there, as it is for I picked up Swan Dive just in time for my own ballerina reunion with my best friends from my dancing days with the Pennsylvania Ballet. On the way to my destination, I cracked open the book at the airport and couldn't put it down. I finished reading it by the time I landed and passed it on to my friends to read. (who are also loving it!). I immediately loved Georgina's writing. She is brutally honest, laugh out loud funny, and tender and reverent to her art form. The love is there, as it is for most who worked their way up through the ranks to soloist status in one of the most important and famous companies in the United States. She exposes the underbelly of abuse that is/was the culture of New York City Ballet. I believe her and applaud her bravery. It is exactly this kind of bravery that will hopefully bring healing and change. Her storytelling took me back to the sweat drenched studios, the messy dressing rooms, the vast stage and beyond-the camaraderie, the work, the friendships were all heartfelt. This was the most beautiful Swan Dive I've ever read!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ellie

    I loved this book! Georgina Pazcoguin's healthy viewpoint of NYCB, along with the brutal Peter Martins, is so refreshing. She is unabashed and unafraid to be brutally honest. The dance world is beyond challenging and I found this memoir to be incredibly open. From her first summer in New York, to her role in CATS, it was a great ride with a lot of humor thrown in. I do wonder what her reception will be like once she starts rehearsal again at NYCB. I think they'll love her just like I did in read I loved this book! Georgina Pazcoguin's healthy viewpoint of NYCB, along with the brutal Peter Martins, is so refreshing. She is unabashed and unafraid to be brutally honest. The dance world is beyond challenging and I found this memoir to be incredibly open. From her first summer in New York, to her role in CATS, it was a great ride with a lot of humor thrown in. I do wonder what her reception will be like once she starts rehearsal again at NYCB. I think they'll love her just like I did in reading this very down to earth book. Thank you Georgina, as well as thanks to Netgalley and Henry Holt and Company Publishing for the egalley.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Meredith

    Pazcoguin did a great job narrating. I know nothing about ballet and this was fascinating.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    The best I can say about this book, is that it was just okay. I enjoyed most of her stories and also enjoyed getting a peek behind the scenes at the New York City Ballet. Her persona was crass, even vulgar at times. Swearing doesn't usually bother me at all, but she was really mouthy and it felt contrived, like she was trying to re-enforce her self perceived "Rogue Ballerina" image. The book lacked sincerity but was still generally interesting. The best I can say about this book, is that it was just okay. I enjoyed most of her stories and also enjoyed getting a peek behind the scenes at the New York City Ballet. Her persona was crass, even vulgar at times. Swearing doesn't usually bother me at all, but she was really mouthy and it felt contrived, like she was trying to re-enforce her self perceived "Rogue Ballerina" image. The book lacked sincerity but was still generally interesting.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie Innes

    A disappointment. I really wanted to like this book because Georgina "Gina" Pazcoguin comes across as a likeable, fun person. Also, I've watched her dance several times at Lincoln Center and have long regarded her as an excellent, skilled and charismatic dancer. The strongest part of the book is when Pazcoguin talks about how she's the only female New York City Ballet soloist who has never been allowed to dance the Sugar Plum Fairy, in spite of being MORE than qualified. There is no excuse for th A disappointment. I really wanted to like this book because Georgina "Gina" Pazcoguin comes across as a likeable, fun person. Also, I've watched her dance several times at Lincoln Center and have long regarded her as an excellent, skilled and charismatic dancer. The strongest part of the book is when Pazcoguin talks about how she's the only female New York City Ballet soloist who has never been allowed to dance the Sugar Plum Fairy, in spite of being MORE than qualified. There is no excuse for that. The inequities in the casting process she experiences are egregious. A section on how she got liposuction on her thighs while in peak form as a dancer is both shocking and powerful, though more detail about the healing process and whether the benefits (if there were any) lasted would have been helpful. It is difficult to fathom any doctor would have performed that surgery. Do other ballet dancers get cosmetic procedures, too? The book's strengths are hidden inside a narrative that at times is confusing. It feels disorganized, meandering in time from past to present and back again, and is written in a conversational style that I found jarring - lots of crass language, and very little attention to sentence structure. The biggest weakness is that Pazcoguin's firsthand insights offer surprisingly little new information. Before reading the book, I read the New York Times story about it, and an excerpt in Elle, and those articles hit all the high points. There was honestly no reason for me to read the book, though I had to read the book to realize that. Can't recommend this one, though she does get three stars for courage.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ruth

    New York City Ballet soloist Georgina Pazcoguin takes on the oppressive regime that was the Company under Peter Martins, as well as the joy and exhilaration of her career as a professional ballerina. Throughout this book, which is written in a conversational tone, the fear and anger regarding the corporate (and quite obviously racist) casting decisions contrast with the companionship and bonding within a company of dancers, all committed to a common goal- dancing their hearts out, every night. I New York City Ballet soloist Georgina Pazcoguin takes on the oppressive regime that was the Company under Peter Martins, as well as the joy and exhilaration of her career as a professional ballerina. Throughout this book, which is written in a conversational tone, the fear and anger regarding the corporate (and quite obviously racist) casting decisions contrast with the companionship and bonding within a company of dancers, all committed to a common goal- dancing their hearts out, every night. I would like to read more about Ms. Pazcoguin's experiences on Broadway, and would definitely like to read a follow-up after she has had more time at NYCB under the new artistic leadership since Mr. Martins' departure. Many thanks to the author and publisher for providing an ARC.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Lori Sinsel Harris

    I, like millions of other little girls growing up had a dream of being a ballerina, we watched movies of princess ballerinas, took lessons in the church basement or school gym, usually taught by someone's aunt or older sister who had had the same dream, growing up in small town USA. For most of us this is all it is, a dream, a dream that as we grow up fades away and is forgotten, or looked back on as a fond or funny memory. For Georgina Pazcoguin, from small-town Pennsylvania that dream became h I, like millions of other little girls growing up had a dream of being a ballerina, we watched movies of princess ballerinas, took lessons in the church basement or school gym, usually taught by someone's aunt or older sister who had had the same dream, growing up in small town USA. For most of us this is all it is, a dream, a dream that as we grow up fades away and is forgotten, or looked back on as a fond or funny memory. For Georgina Pazcoguin, from small-town Pennsylvania that dream became her reality, but it did not come without a huge cost. Georgina started out like the rest of us, taking lessons in her small town, but here her story diverges, being chosen to study for the summer at the School of American Ballet in New York City, this opportunity leads to being picked for an apprenticeship at the New York City Ballet. After completing her first summer with the SAB she was invited to stay for the winter session, she passes and returns home but does dance two summers with SAB before moving to New York at age 17 to become a full time student of SAB, with hopes of making it into NYCB. She says no one auditions for NYCB, they are picked from the dancers at SAB, first for an apprenticeship, then on to dancing in the corps. Georgina became the first bi-racial Asian-American soloist for the NYCB. But it cost. Anyone knowing anything about ballet knows that the beautiful thin ballerinas we watch glide so gracefully across the stage, twirl on the tips of their toes and seem to fly effortlessly through the air is the result of hundreds and hundreds of painfilled, grueling, bone-wrenching, spirit crushing, hard work. To achieve the degree of grace and elegance these ballerinas achieve is paid for by their blood, sweat and many tears. Georgina's story is one filled with many painful, humiliating experiences, a less determined person would have quit way before reaching the professional ballerina level. She tells of pain filled practices, performing injured, missed holidays and family events. Her whole life was centered around ballet and it leaves very little room for anything else. She also tells of what keeps her going, of the feeling like no other she gets when on stage dancing and it all comes together, of becoming one with the music, of how aware a dancer is of her body and of her body's capabilities. She shares stories of her greatest achievements, and her most devastating loses. Through this well written, often humorous memoir we get a look at the big picture, the behind the scenes life of a NYCB ballerina. Both the highs and the lows. I loved Georgina's story, her direct, right in your face approach to telling about her life with the ballet is open and honest, she pulls no punches when opening up about being fat-shamed, manhandled, withstanding racial inequities, cast as the evil sister per say because of her dark hair and color of her skin, never to be picked for the juicier A parts. And she tells of her fight to right these wrongs, to move the NYCB into this century, change their type casting and racism. Hers is a wonderful story of determination and achievements. Anyone with an interest in the world of ballet needs to read this book, it is entertaining as well as informative. 5 stars, recommended highly. Thank you to Henry Holt and Company publishing and to Goodreads for the free ARC of this book, I am leaving my honest review in return.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Gina Mahalek

    Pazcoguin’s Riveting Memoir Offers the Dance World a Correction Georgina Pazcoguin, New York City Ballet’s first Asian American soloist, vividly and compellingly conveys what it’s like to be a ballerina in the elite ranks of one of the world’s greatest and most storied companies. I was completely absorbed by Pazcoguin’s account of her path, cheering her on when she’s chosen for, and receives a scholarship to, the School of American Ballet’s Summer Intensive program (and then invited back to beco Pazcoguin’s Riveting Memoir Offers the Dance World a Correction Georgina Pazcoguin, New York City Ballet’s first Asian American soloist, vividly and compellingly conveys what it’s like to be a ballerina in the elite ranks of one of the world’s greatest and most storied companies. I was completely absorbed by Pazcoguin’s account of her path, cheering her on when she’s chosen for, and receives a scholarship to, the School of American Ballet’s Summer Intensive program (and then invited back to become a full-time student); applauding her when she’s selected first as an apprentice and then member of NYCB’s corp de ballet (which the company’s founder George Balanchine considered its “secret sauce"); and celebrating her promotion to soloist in such roles such as Anita in West Side Story Suite choreographed by Jerome Robbins. And I shared her heartbreak when she bumps up against racism and stereotypes that keep her from being cast in NYCB’s Eurocentric “A” company roles. Pazcoguin takes on the Asian stereotypes of the NYCB’s Chinese Tea Dance as choreographed by Balanchine—I won’t ever see this dance in quite the same way again and hope that Pazcoguin’s work with Final Bow for Yellowface (an organization that she co-founded with Phil Chan) will lead to much-needed change throughout the dance world. Balletomanes will find plenty of references to ballets that they’ll want to explore on YouTube, and will definitely want to seek out Pazcouin’s fabulous online performances as well. Pazcoguin is a wonderful storyteller, and her dancer’s musicality and sense of timing informs the pages of this short but candid, juicy, often-hilarious, and information-packed read. This unforgettable memoir by “The Rogue Ballerina” will be a great gift for past, present, and would-be dancers of all stripes and is essential for all dance sections in bookstores and libraries. With thanks to Henry Holt & Co and NetGalley for allowing me access to a digital review copy in exchange for an honest review.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Meghan PageUs

    thank you to Henry Holt & Co and NetGalley for access to Georgina Pazcoguin's memoir about her experiences navigating her passion for ballet and love for dance with the complexities, and blatant experiences with, racism and sexism/misogyny embedded in her time with NYCB. I am reminded of other books that uncover themes on our public adoration for the female form and for dance and related aesthetic arts and athleticism and call out that this adoration comes at the expense of trauma, assault, and thank you to Henry Holt & Co and NetGalley for access to Georgina Pazcoguin's memoir about her experiences navigating her passion for ballet and love for dance with the complexities, and blatant experiences with, racism and sexism/misogyny embedded in her time with NYCB. I am reminded of other books that uncover themes on our public adoration for the female form and for dance and related aesthetic arts and athleticism and call out that this adoration comes at the expense of trauma, assault, and mental (and physical) harm and abuse. These words, stories, and openness matter because we should be aware that our love for beauty is blended with ugliness; this notion of beauty on stage and ugliness behind the scenes is important to discuss. I celebrate and respect how hard it must be to write and recall times like this and yet with the moments of humor, reflection, and clear passion for dance, I also celebrate a true artistic voice and the genuine intent to share an open narrative that highlights ups and downs and emotional experiences learning this craft. As a lecturer in psychology who teaches about body image and related strains with eating and beauty sickness, this book also offers a lot of valuable connection and honesty that I can use in an academic setting; the interaction with race and culture also offers needed nuance to the examination of dance, body shape/form, and body image experiences. I truly see this book as working so well for my personal interests in memoirs about strong women/resilience but also serving value in some of the academic work I do. This is a memoir, a lived experience in words, that I can and will share in many of my personal and work settings. I greatly appreciate the chance to learn more about the darker side of ballet and also the chance to celebrate this artist's work and identity in my social media reviews and in my body image seminar.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    First I must tell you that my opinion of this marvelous book is totally biased. I studied and danced until my late 20's, I am a died in the wool balletomane, having read everything from Tamara Karsavina's and Isadora Duncan's memoirs to Suzanne Farrel's & Gelsey Kirkland's (and plenty in between )and I have had a subscription to NYC Ballet since Balanchine was alive and choreographing (well, THAT dates me!). Ms. Pazcoguin tells an amazing story of her training, her career and life inside NYCB. I First I must tell you that my opinion of this marvelous book is totally biased. I studied and danced until my late 20's, I am a died in the wool balletomane, having read everything from Tamara Karsavina's and Isadora Duncan's memoirs to Suzanne Farrel's & Gelsey Kirkland's (and plenty in between )and I have had a subscription to NYC Ballet since Balanchine was alive and choreographing (well, THAT dates me!). Ms. Pazcoguin tells an amazing story of her training, her career and life inside NYCB. I was especially interested to get a view inside Peter Martin's (who was hand picked by Balanchine to succeed him) directorship, before and after his fall. (read HIS memoir "Far From Denmark"). Sadly, I think most balletomanes know of the mental and (sometimes) physical abuse of dancers by ballet masters and choreographers (Seen "The Red Shoes"?) but perhaps choose to give them a pass for the sake of the incredible art which comes from this pain. Pazcoguin, much to her credit, tells the truth of the business without painting herself as a 'victim' (although she WAS victimized and recognizes that fact) We watch her grow and change before our eyes...becoming a highly skilled professional, an advocate for diversity in ballet and a denouncer of 'body shaming' (also some great travel stories!) To see her dance (which I have) is otherworldly and a delight! I could go on, but suffice to say that whether or not you are a fan of the ballet in general or NYCBallet in particular, you will learn a great deal from Gina's book and gain tremendous insight into this amazing art form. And to Gina I say "You are incredible, best to you always and Thank You!" Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with this ARC

  27. 5 out of 5

    Mary G.

    Thank you to Henry Holt & Company for my NetGalley ARC of Swan Dive, a memoir that publishes July 27th. Georgina Pazcoguin is a talented ballerina - but she's so much more than that. She's the first Asian American female soloist at the New York City Ballet Company. She's a cofounder of Final Bow for Yellowface, an organization working to root out harmful stereotypes of Asians in ballet. She went toe to toe with Peter Martins, the former head of NYCB, on issues of sexual harassment and mental abus Thank you to Henry Holt & Company for my NetGalley ARC of Swan Dive, a memoir that publishes July 27th. Georgina Pazcoguin is a talented ballerina - but she's so much more than that. She's the first Asian American female soloist at the New York City Ballet Company. She's a cofounder of Final Bow for Yellowface, an organization working to root out harmful stereotypes of Asians in ballet. She went toe to toe with Peter Martins, the former head of NYCB, on issues of sexual harassment and mental abuse at the institution. And here she tells all in a candid and oftentimes hilarious memoir. The subtitle "the making of a rogue ballerina" perfectly describes this book - the reader gets a deep dive into the world of ballet, from Pazcoguin's first summer intensive at the School of American ballet to her time in the corps and her life today as a soloist. She is not the stereotypical stick-thin blonde ballerina, and she's learned to embrace what makes her stand out. I loved her section on the Nutcracker, aka the Nutbuster due to the grueling schedule. Plus the backstage tidbits were so fun to read - I would love to be a fly on the wall in this world! But it's not all fun and games - I appreciated her frank talk about the deeply rooted racism and sexism in ballet and their negative consequences. She struck a great balance between serious and light-hearted content. If you love a memoir, this is a great one to check out! I'm excited to continue to follow Pazcoguin's journey, dance-related and otherwise.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Linda Galella

    Swan Dive”, by NYC Ballet soloist, Georgina Pazcoguin, is a down ‘n dirty, tell all that will take you behind the scenes of the professional ballet world. Paz, or Gina, as she’s known, has been a member of the NYCB since she was 18 and began going to summer camp there at the young age of 14. She’s spent more than half her life in and around this organization and reveals all, including her experiences with Peter Martins, the artistic director who resigned due to sexual harassment allegations. Gina Swan Dive”, by NYC Ballet soloist, Georgina Pazcoguin, is a down ‘n dirty, tell all that will take you behind the scenes of the professional ballet world. Paz, or Gina, as she’s known, has been a member of the NYCB since she was 18 and began going to summer camp there at the young age of 14. She’s spent more than half her life in and around this organization and reveals all, including her experiences with Peter Martins, the artistic director who resigned due to sexual harassment allegations. Gina tells her story in rather colorful language and begins her story as a young girl sandwiched in the backseat of her family car. They’re on a road trip from Altoona, PA taking her to NYC for the 1st time to audition for the School of American Ballet where she successfully wins a scholarship. Her story proceeds mostly in a chronological manner. Interspersed along the way are short, bolded typed pages that are titled and numbered “SWAN DIVE # 1-12 These are 12 unique vignettes that Gina shares as an exclamation point, mostly a negative but learning event, that highlight her story. You won’t soon forget these moments in her life. This is one formidable female! Altho’ Gina faced a great deal of adversity, abuse and discrimination, she didn’t let it stop her or hinder her career. She is a successful dancer and has blazed a path for young girls coming behind her, regardless of color or conformation. Perhaps she would consider a version of this book that they could read, sans the colorful language? It would be such an inspiration 📚

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sharon

    Georgina Pazcoguin was New York City Ballet's first Asian American soloist, learning that sometimes hard work and perseverance cannot break down barriers. Outspoken about the abuse and harrassment that she faced during her years in the ballet, past and present, this rogue ballerina decided to follow the path that fit her best. This memoir is more about the journey Georgina takes from her small town in Pennsylvania to the busy streets of New York City. The ballet world is laid open for the world t Georgina Pazcoguin was New York City Ballet's first Asian American soloist, learning that sometimes hard work and perseverance cannot break down barriers. Outspoken about the abuse and harrassment that she faced during her years in the ballet, past and present, this rogue ballerina decided to follow the path that fit her best. This memoir is more about the journey Georgina takes from her small town in Pennsylvania to the busy streets of New York City. The ballet world is laid open for the world to see, with all of its behind-the-scenes grittiness. The author makes no apologies for her own behavior, showing readers the reality of life beneath the glamour. The author glosses over the allegations of abuse perpetrated by her superiors and fellow dancers, though it would have been nice to know the outcome of any investigations that might have been done. Although she gives few examples, it is most likely certain that Georgina was involved in many incidents of harrassment over the years. This book was timely because of the MeToo movement, but its importance was more than just the harrassment she faced. Georgina Pazcoguin worked hard to hone her craft and her dedication to the ballet came through well in this memoir. Disclaimer: I was given an Advanced Reader's Copy of Swan Dive by NetGalley and the publisher, Henry Holt and Co. The decision to read and review this memoir was entirely my own.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Diane Hernandez

    Ballet is beautiful to watch. But behind the scenes it’s hell. It’s a racist, fat-shaming, pain-inducing world where back biting and power trips are common. Swan Dive is one ballerina’s tour of this hell. And it’s one crazy ride. Gina practiced and practiced to perfect her art, ballet dancing. She goes to the prestigious School of American Ballet. She is selected for the New York City Ballet. Eventually, she becomes a soloist there. But at what cost? Not just physically taxed, she is also mentall Ballet is beautiful to watch. But behind the scenes it’s hell. It’s a racist, fat-shaming, pain-inducing world where back biting and power trips are common. Swan Dive is one ballerina’s tour of this hell. And it’s one crazy ride. Gina practiced and practiced to perfect her art, ballet dancing. She goes to the prestigious School of American Ballet. She is selected for the New York City Ballet. Eventually, she becomes a soloist there. But at what cost? Not just physically taxed, she is also mentally abused by the sexist and racist ballet culture. Gina rips aside the theater curtains to spill the tea at what being a working ballerina is really like. Swan Dive is a fascinating memoir. It is so startling that I had to keep reminding myself it was a true story. Thank goodness my mom only made me go to one set of ballet classes when I was young. I would never have lasted two days at either the SAB or NYCB. Swan Dive is a mesmerizing look at professional ballet. But you don’t have to even like ballet to enjoy it. It is an almost anthropological look into an antiquated culture that few will encounter in real life. However, if you are a dancer, you will adore this insider memoir. 4.5 stars rounded up to 5 stars! Thanks to Henry Holt and Co. and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

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