NYCB Ballerinas Share Their Unique Journeys in Two New Books
2021 is quickly becoming the year of ballet-book releases, and New York City Ballet fans have double the reason to be excited. Two of the company’s leading women have chronicled their respective journeys in publications hitting shelves this year. Soloist Georgina Pazcoguin is launching her memoir, Swan Dive: The Making of a Rogue Ballerina (Henry Holt and Co., $27.99), on July 27, while principal Megan Fairchild’s book The Ballerina Mindset: How to Protect Your Mental Health While Striving for Excellence (Penguin Life, an imprint of Penguin Random House, $17) is due out on December 7 and is available for preorder.
Pazcoguin and Fairchild have danced with NYCB for nearly two decades. Both are alums of the School of American Ballet; Fairchild was promoted to principal in 2005 while Pazcoguin became NYCB’s first female Asian-American soloist in 2013. They also had stints performing on Broadway: Both appeared in On the Town, and Pazcoguin joined the 2016 revival of Cats .
While written by ballerinas, the books aren’t only applicable to ballet students or dance fans.
“My book is for anyone who has ever felt ‘othered’ in their space,” says Pazcoguin, who has been an advocate and leader in promoting diversity and inclusion in ballet through her presence and career at NYCB and her work with Final Bow for Yellowface, an organization she co-founded with Phil Chan.
In Fairchild’s case, a publisher reached out to her with a book idea after using the ballerina’s advice from her Ask Megan! podcast to prepare for a marathon.
“She felt the wisdom I was giving, while it was geared to ballet students, was pretty universal,” says Fairchild.
Read on for more details on both dancers’ upcoming titles.
Swan Dive: The Making of a Rogue Ballerina
Pazcoguin, also known as “The Rogue Ballerina,” takes readers on her journey from small-town Pennsylvania to the elite worlds of SAB and NYCB. While marked with her signature humor and drama, Pazcoguin also opens up about tough topics that have rocked the ballet world, including racism, mental abuse and sexual harassment. And she is remarkably candid about her experiences with NYCB colleagues and former ballet master in chief Peter Martins. “This is an environment where there is a power dynamic,” she says. “It is not equal. One person decides your fate.”
“If it gets people thinking and sparks discussion, I think the book will have done what it’s supposed to do,” says Pazcoguin.
Pazcoguin, who is of Filipino-Italian heritage, also hopes her experiences will inspire young dancers to forge their own unique paths. “The discipline, critique and sacrifice needed to sustain a career in dance do not have to be devoid of self-worth,” she says. “They are not mutually exclusive.”
“The book is about taking space,” she continues. “I hope that younger artists will know they can hold space and have a very successful career even if it doesn’t look like the ballerinas that they see up on the walls. Let me tell you, none of those ballerinas looked like me.”
The Ballerina Mindset: How to Protect Your Mental Health While Striving for Excellence
Fairchild’s book is structured around 10 lessons that she acquired during the course of her career. Chapters address topics such as facing anxiety, managing stress and handling feedback.
Lessons such as these, she says, are even more pertinent now, given the challenges brought on dancers by the pandemic.
“I feel it’s more helpful than ever because I think students are having to make big decisions even younger now,” says Fairchild. “I think the questions everyone faced during the pandemic were ‘Do I still want to do this? Am I still going to be committed to this in a year-and-a-half’s time?’ I think having some tools to process that stress is really helpful and to also know that even the people who came before you, like myself, went through similar stress even without a pandemic.”
Fairchild, who is an MBA candidate at New York University and mother of three (she delivered twin girls in April), writes about her experiences of going to school and becoming a mom in her book—and about how she balances both her professional and personal lives.
“The whole day as a young dancer is centered around ‘What do I need?,’ ‘What should I eat?,’ almost obsessively,” says Fairchild. “I love that I get to care for others now. Focusing on other things has helped take the stress away. I would drop off my toddler at daycare and then go rehearse Theme and Variations. Suddenly Theme and Variations wasn’t such a big thing anymore because I already felt like Superwoman just arriving at the theater!”