Art Works Blog

Art Works Podcast: Stephen Manes

This week's podcast gives us an intimate view of the life of one of America’s top ballet companies. Our guide is Stephen Manes, who just published Where Snowflakes Dance and Swear: Inside the Land of Ballet, which documents a full season of Seattle’s Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB). Manes clearly got Rocco’s memo about "art works," because the book details the various and unexpected ways that art is working through PNB. Although Manes has written more than 30 books and hundreds of articles, on the face of it he is not the likeliest choice to write a book about the inner workings of a ballet company. He is a tech guy who has written for publications like Forbes and PC World. But he loves ballet, and his outsider status and observant eye means a refreshing look at the nuts and bolts of putting together a season of dance. As Manes shows, ballet is composed of many moving parts: dancers, choreographers, stagers, teachers, conductors, musicians, rehearsal pianists, lighting directors, shoemakers, costumers, stage managers, scenic artists, marketers, fundraisers, and students, all of whom work together to make the ballet that flows so seamlessly on the stage. Manes makes clear that what these people do is work---hard work. This is a particularly sensitive point for the dancers: nothing annoys them more than the assumption that they don’t have a "real" job.

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