As the release of Odile, Legend of the Black Swan draws closer, I'm compelled to give a bit more background behind this writing journey that I have set out on with my Enchanted Lands Romances. I know that there are only two books in this collection so far (erm... well 1 1/2, seeing as how Odile is not fully released yet) but back over a year ago, when I wrote Snow Maiden, I never really thought that I would do anymore of these ballet based stories. I guess as a former dancer myself I felt too close to the dance world to write about it. And to be honest, a lot of the time that I have seen the ballet-slash-dancer life taken out of the dance studio or off of the stage and put into book of film form, I haven't ever really been all that pleased. Many attempts (Hollywood I'm looking at you here) seemed to relish stripping away the magic to reveal the dark, seedy, side of the art form. That's fine. It adds drama blah, blah, blah... and while, sadly, its true that the world of ballet is not all sweetness and light, I found that, in my mind, what I loved best about dancing, performing on stage and certainly in my work teaching others about dance was the storytelling.
When the idea for Snow Maiden, which I based on the Snow Queen and King from the Nutcracker Ballet, popped into my head, I was searching for a story that I could put together quickly, something for the season I was in at the time and something that I knew I could fall in love with right away. The Snow Scene in Nutcracker has always been my favorite part of that ballet. The music, the magical setting, what it symbolizes in the story and, of course, the costumes! I've danced that scene many, many times and it's never stopped being my favorite. It's the perfect fantasy world to me. When I had the honor of dancing the role of the Snow Queen herself, I even started to wonder where the idea for such a character had come from. This was a fleeting thought in my dancer mind. I was much more consumed by learning the steps, then perfecting them and all of the other demanding and exciting things that go through a performer's mind in preparation for the stage. But years later, when I had the even greater honor to be entrusted with the task of teaching students to dance these timeless story ballets, those thoughts came on me again. Where did the characters in these ballets come from? It became very important to me to make sure that my students knew the stories behind the steps I was teaching them.
Every time I started to set a new ballet on my students, I would always take time in the beginning to tell them the story. So many of these ballets are fairy tales, true, but also folktales, myths and mini histories rich in regional cultures from around the world. So much to learn about! I would also share with them what had driven me when I was a young dancer. "We are always telling a story," I would say. "Dance is communicating. We are speaking to others through movement." In the words of the great dancer Ted Shawn from his Credo, "... dance is the universal language..."
Coming back to my inspiration for Snow Maiden, it just felt natural to create my own story wrapped around the memory of a favorite stage scene. Snow Queen and King are not the main characters in Nutcracker, but even after many years and hanging up my own pair of pointe shoes, the idea that their might be a story behind those ethereal figures still intrigued me. Anyone who knows ballet, knows that there are a lot different characters in any ballet that play key roles. Some of those roles have become well known in the dance world for the way they showcase a dancer's strength and talent. My goal with Snow Maiden was to take two characters that weren't the leading roles that everyone knows so well and give them a story all their own... a romantic story! This endeavor led me to some fascinating research and an even deeper understanding of how myth and folklore have shaped not only our greatest ballets but many the world's most beloved tales.
Once again, I was telling the story not just through dance this time, but also with words.
In the writing of Odile Legend of the Black Swan, I am once again, pulling a lesser understood character (and a villain no less) from a story ballet and giving her a tale all her own. I know the story of Swan Lake. I've seen it, danced it, heard it many times over. But the idea that Odile could have a whole back story that explains the motivation for her perceived terrible acts, set my imagination on fire.
This month on the blog, leading up to the release of Odile on January 30th, I will be sharing little tidbits with you from the original ballet Swan Lake, as well as some of my thoughts and inspirations for Odile and Azarus's story. I will do the same for Snow Maiden at a later date. This will be a just-for-fun segment on the blog and will probably end up in the xtras section of the website as well. As to future plans for the Enchanted Lands series, there are many more fairy tale ballets I would love to delve into and many, many more wonderful characters that have been patiently waiting in the wings to have their stories told. I would consider it a great honor to share those stories with you.
About the Author
Amanda V Shane is an author of paranormal and fantasy romance and is currently working on her Tides of Atlantis series about the super hot lost kings of Atlantis as well as her Enchanted Lands Romances.