Cover Image: Swan Dive

Swan Dive

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Member Reviews

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to dance at the highest levels, to be a prima ballerina? Wonder no more.

Georgina Pazcoguin gives a funny, heartfelt, no holds barred, behind-the-scenes look into professional ballet. From her years training locally as a child, to her time at the elite School of American Ballet, joining the Corps de Ballet, and finally, becoming a soloist with New York City Ballet.

This isn’t some stuffy ballet history or hagiography. It feels like you’ve sat down with a close friend, who’s sharing the intimate details of her life and work over coffee. Her style of writing is very personal and accessible. There isn’t a boring moment.

Her love for her art comes through in every page, but she doesn’t hold back from criticizing the often brutal sacrifices it demands of dancers. Or the obsession many teachers, etc., have with dancers’ weight and appearance.

Georgina’s battles with legendary (and notorious) ballet dancer turned company head, Peter Martins, expose the darker side of ballet.

I applaud Georgina for her courage and honesty.
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I was incredibly excited to get my hands on Swan Dive. My daughters are dancers and I've enjoyed several other ballerina memoirs and autobiographies. Unfortunately, after multiple attempts, this one just didn't hold my interest.

I have no doubt that Pazcoguin has a great story to tell; I researched her online before diving in and was got excited to learn firsthand about her career, training, civil rights activism as a minority ballerina, and life as an NYCB soloist. However, the story jumped from topic to topic without providing much detail on any particular incident, and the incredibly informal writing style wasn't for me. 

I'm not against language in literature, and I don't mind figures of speech, but the inclusion of too many hip terms can make a book unreadable. IYKYK, KWIM? Irritating AF, right? I first wondered if I was just older than the age range of expected readers, but wikipedia tells me I'm only a couple of years older than the author. This won't be a book that stands the test of time.

I didn't finish it, so I can't attest to content for younger readers. The writing style may be well-suited for older teens and readers in their early twenties.
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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.
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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  NetGalley for providing me with this ARC
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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.
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In Swan Dive, Georgina Pazcoguin doesn't hold back on showing some of the darker elements of what many consider to be the dream career of being a ballerina. Detailing her experiences from ballet training in her youth, to a successful career with the New York City Ballet, as well as Broadway productions, she gives us a real look behind the curtains and is somehow able to inject humor into some of the darker elements of the ballet world- while still treating them as the serious, sometimes tragic experiences that they are. This is a balance that can be hard to achieve, and she does it perfectly. Her personality really shines through and I loved how blunt she was. I especially enjoyed reading about the differences in environment between the ballet company and Broadway productions. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with this e-ARC of Swan Dive.
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Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for a n e ARC of the book. Interesting looks at the life of NYC ballerina and her life. So hard but interesting. Could have done with less liberal use of the f word. Didn't offend me but juvenile and not needed.
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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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This book was provided to me compliments of #NetGalley for my honest opinion. 

Swan Dive is a story of ballet, struggle, life. Georgina Pazcoguin brings a special brand of humor to her story.
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This is the memoir of Georgina Pazcoguin, the first Asian American soloist to dance for the New York City Ballet. In this book she describes her lifelong love affair with ballet, and takes us behind the scenes; showing us what the elite professional ballet world is really like. Pazcoguin uses her blunt and witty style to take us on journey from childhood all the way to the present; showing us the painful experiences and joyous triumphs along the way.

The book is divided into four parts: Act One: The Gateway Drug (1989 – 2000), Act Two: Corps de Ballet (2001 – 2003), Act Three: If the Fates Allow (2003 – 2016), and Act Four: Flying Solo (2016 – present).

Overall this was an interesting and inspiring story, but obviously if you are not interested at all in ballet, then this might not be the best choice for you. There still might be parts that you enjoy, but this book is very centered around ballet and the quest to be among the very best at it. If you are familiar with Pazcoguin, then you will surely appreciate hearing her unique story, and her willingness to expose some of unpleasant parts of the industry.
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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.
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Am I a ballerina? Have I ever even take. A ballet class? No. But I am fascinated by the behind the scenes worlds of elite performance artists, which ballet performers definitely are. Georgina Pazcoguin is a groundbreaking soloist in the NYCB, and I found her memoir that ranged from childhood through her career absolutely riveting. I’d recommend this book to anyone who enjoys ballet, or simply those who are interested in the inner workings of elite institutions and the incredible demands placed on these young professionals.
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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.
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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.
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I loved this one. As someone who loved “On Pointe” from Disney, this book was right up my alley with the interest that had been peaked by the docu-series. Georgina Pazcoguin really let us behind the curtains of what happens on the world’s best ballerina stages. She was hysterical but also was very raw and honest. I loved this one so much. Definitely one of the better autobiographies I’ve ever read.
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I credit Swan Dive for getting me reading again.  I love ballet and it was time that the whole PM NYCB reign of terror was documented writ
large.  Georgina reminded me of the need to speak out and not just after the fact.. I hope she will mentor young ballerinas or most young
women for that very reason.  There is always the too young to write memoir debate and this book is a stunning testament to the fact that
there is a lot to say before a certain age.
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An absolutely remarkable and sarcastic memoir written by an incredibly talented ballerina. It felt almost as if I was watching a movie that I can’t tear myself away from! Highly recommended to all those that admire fine arts!
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I've always loved ballet, but became even more obsessed during Covid after binging on Disney's "On Pointe" documentary about the NY City Ballet.  Swan Dive goes even deeper than that, detailing the amazing career of Georgina Pazcoguin as she moved up the ranks of the NY Ballet to eventually become the first ever Asian American female soloist.  The woman is a fighter and her she pulls no punches here, detailing how she had to fight racism at every turn and more often than not felt on the outside of the ballet world.   It's a little sad to hear details of how ugly things can be behind the beauty on stage, but it's a fascinating story that I couldn't put down.
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"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.
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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.
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