Ballet may seem esoteric to a lot of non-balletomanes, even with the glorious presence of Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet in the Borough. But it may be less so if they delve into "Where Snowflakes Dance and Swear." Author Stephen Manes spent a year in rehearsals, classes, meeting, auditions and performances and reveals what he learned in what he calls the Land of Ballet.
Based on an in-depth portrait of Pacific Northwest, one of the country's prestigious ballet companies, and on interviews with dancers, administrators, musicians, costumers, stagehands and donors, the book reveals what happens behind the scenes and how ballet really happens.
Given a prominent place in the mix is Carlisle's own CPYB and its "indomitable" (in the author's words) founding artistic director, Marcia Dale Weary.
While preparing to write his book, Manes found the word "Carlisle" repeatedly listed after the names of famous dancers. One was Noelani Pantastico, who was a principal dancer with Pacific Northwest during his years of research.
Manes had never heard of CPYB, despite spending summers in Sunbury as a child and the school having existed for more than 50 years by the time that research began.
Soon he heard over and over about the "amazing ballet factory" in Carlisle. And while the wording may be a bit strange - "creation station" might work better - CPYB, the 75-year-old-young Weary and CEO Alan Hineline can be thrilled by the thread of praise that runs through the book.
One quote by Violette Verdy, a former dancer with the New York City Ballet who taught in Carlisle, says a great deal: She calls Weary a "high priestess" of ballet with a "tremendous combination of will and devotion and love and intransigence."
But it is the alumni like Pantastico, glittering dance stages in the United States and abroad, who are the ultimate tribute.
Manes was one of the creators and co-hosts of the weekly public television series "Digital Duo." He co-wrote "Gates: How Microsoft's Mogul Reinvented an Industry - and Made Himself the Richest Man in America," and wrote long-running columns on personal technology for The New York Times, Forbes, PC World, PC Magazine and many other publications.
Manes is also the author of more than 30 books for children and young adults. His "Be a Perfect Person in Just Three Days!" is a curriculum staple in American and French schools.
"Where Snowflakes Dance and Swear: Inside the Land of Ballet" by Stephen Manes. New York, Seattle, London: Cadwallader & Stern, 2011.