Swan Dive: The Making of a Rogue Ballerina
By Georgina Pazcoguin
Henry Holt and Company
ISBN 9781250244307, hardcover, 255 pages, July 2021 (US) / October 2021 (UK), US $27.99
Pazcoguin takes few prisoners, and she doesn’t hold back when it comes to former NYCB ballet-master-in-chief Peter Martins, who retired from the company in 2018 following an investigation into accusations of sexual harassment and physical and verbal abuse. (Martins denied all the allegations.) She details a misogynistic boys’-club mentality, racism and severe fat-shaming – to the extent that she got liposuction to make herself more likely to get a promotion to soloist, the rank she now holds – under Martins’s watch. “It’s like Peter could snap his fingers, and you’re instantly transformed from a vessel of promise to a piece of festering garbage,” she writes. She stood her ground against him, but rebuilding her dignity and self-worth remains an ongoing process. Pazcoguin is a tough fucking cookie.
Along with backstage shenanigans, wild times on tour, all-night benders with company comrades, and some hilariously unfortunate wardrobe malfunctions, she describes several of her swan dives – the onstage trips, falls, and ass-over-teakettle face plants that every dancer dreads. And of course, no ballet book would be complete without a litany of complaints about dancing The Nutcracker (yes, we know it’s tiring and boring, but show me the job that doesn’t entail it’s portion of mind-numbing drudgery and a requirement to generate revenue). Pazcoguin eventually found personal and artistic salvation performing in Broadway musicals, and those passages are among the book’s most compelling.
Swan Dive is aimed at a mass-market audience – the prelude reassures readers “You’ve never been to City Ballet…or any ballet? NO PROBLEM, I’ve got you” – so ballet insiders may long for more detail. But as a story of one woman’s grit, drive and determination to grab life by the balls, it claims a spot on the shelf.