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When We Danced on Water: A Novel
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When We Danced on Water: A Novel

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  254 Ratings  ·  52 Reviews
Fromacclaimed author Evan Fallenberg, an exquisitelycrafted debut novel tells the story of a preeminent male ballet dancer in theautumn of his career—a Jew whose talent once saved him from the Nazis—whosefading passion for life will flare back to life after a new romance links himto a younger woman fleeing the ghosts of her past as an Israeli Soldier. Fallenberg’s Tel Aviv ...more
ebook, 256 pages
Published May 17th 2011 by HarperCollins e-books (first published January 1st 2011)
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Audra (Unabridged Chick)
This novel was effortless to read, and immensely enjoyable. The writing was lovely -- a little lyrical, a little poetic -- and the plot simple but compelling.

The story revolves around Teo, the aforementioned 85-year old retired ballet dancer, and Vivi, a 40-ish waitress. They meet at the coffee shop where Vivi works and strike up an unlikely friendship. This friendship provokes conversations about art, obsession, and passion, themes which weave through the rest of the story, as we learn about V
Jun 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful, engaging, painfully intimate. A masterfully created story within a story and set in the mysterious world of European ballet. Not a war story like you've ever read before. One of my staff picks at the bookstore - this is not a book for the faint of heart, but one for the passionate reader.
Jun 28, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Author Evan Fallenberg’s novel "When We Danced on Water" is a haunting, beautifully written story about the unlikely friendship between two artists whose lives are changed forever after becoming acquainted in a Tel Aviv café.

World-famous, eighty-five-year-old Teo Levin spent his early years dancing with the Royal Danish Ballet and later as a student of Balanchine, the renowned Russian choreographer. As head of the Tel Aviv Ballet for half a century, Teo has otherwise lived a quiet life, mostly a
Dec 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: favorites
It's probably a tie between this and Sharp Objects on the top spot in my heart. Reading about a dancer who could possess the stage so beautifully and fully, even in writing it blew my mind. I read this book when I was really into dancing and my best friend and I were the head dancers for every musical we did together over three and a half years. His own personal battles and the ones that the woman endures as well, forgive me I haven't read it in quite some time and I lent it to my English teache ...more
Nov 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Kudos to my friend Evan, and apologies for taking so long to get around to reading a truly great novel. The settings are obviously well-researched, the story so compelling (even for a non-balletomane like myself, but the art history more than made up for that). Above all, there is the storytelling, which kept me up well past any sane bedtime, with elements of what might have been considered gothic horror before these became twentieth century horrific reality. Well done, sir.
Ronald Fischman
Dec 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: 12+
When We Danced on Water, by Evan Fallenberg, a Review
From my blog

Dear Hitler:

If the word didn’t strangle me, I might thank you for creating a world that brought forth the legendary power and strength of my people. You yourself, through your propaganda film department, documented our ends, but you left it to masters of fiction like Evan Fallenberg to tell our stories of survival. You have created a universe of pain behind you. It’s not our deaths we rage agains
Jun 05, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Eighty-five year old Teo was once a world class ballet dancer, and even now in his old age, he continues to help instruct dancers on how to perform his ballet “Obsession.” His daily routine is to stop by a coffee shop on his way to the studio. One day Teo discovers a new waitress, Vivi. Teo and Vivi find that they both enjoy each other and their mutual passion for art. Teo challenges Vivi to stop “dabbling” in so many different art forms and instead to develop a passion for one form as he did wi ...more
Karen S.
Dec 02, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When We Danced on Water combines the stories of two Jews from different generations, an 85 year-old choreographer, and a 40 something artist/ waitress who meet in a coffee shop in Tel Aviv and slowly develop enough trust in each other to reveal their personal tragedies, both of which have roots in German-Jewish relationships. The life of Teo, the 85 year-old choreographer, had been derailed by WWII, whereas Vivi's self-esteem had been eroded by a relationship made impossible by the history of Be ...more
Dec 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
A story of creative passion and destructive obsession revealing sixty-years of tormented memories with a restraint that lets them slip so completely into your heart and soul that you don't realize that you're bleeding until you close the book.
Grace Morris
Jul 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book started out quite slowly but picked up speed part way through. I wasn't able to put it down after awhile when Teo started telling his story about his experiences during WW II.
Selina Bartels
I found this book in a thatched hut in Belize outside of San Ignacio so the pickings were thin. But I liked it. It was easy to read, thought provoking and well written. I'm not sure how I feel about the end.
Suzie Q
At first I really like the book. It was written beautifully and it seemed both the main characters were hiding a hidden trauma which was effecting their lives and making them unhappy. I really wanted to find out but as the book went on I it seemed implausable, and slightly dull. Vivi's greatest problem is she ran off with a boy to Germany and then they fell out of love quite mutually, and she went back to Israel, yet still she mops about 'Martin' years later and can't seem to get over him. I di ...more
Oct 19, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The more I think about this book, the less I liked it. Some of the writing about dance and art was beautiful, and the story was certainly compelling in both its tragedy and its hope. However, I didn't really find the characters sympathetic, particularly Vivi, and I found that the graphic depictions of Teo's war story disturbed me so profoundly that it was hard to really become engrossed in and engage with the novel. Additionally, I am never a fan of fiction written in present tense - I find it a ...more
Apr 14, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a wonderful story. I was lost in this book for hours until I finished it. A beautiful relationship between a 85 year old man who was an influential choreographer and suffered in his youth, meets a young waitress who is trying to find herself and also has had some unpleasant experiences she is trying forget. It is at the end of his life and the middle of hers and between them they find something to share and create something wonderful. There are the memories of the Holocaust and painful rela ...more
Apr 29, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Thank you to Goodreads, I received this book in an ARC giveaway :) I enjoyed the author's writing style and appreciated the uniqueness of his characters. The highlight of this book for me was his descriptions of the ballet, and the attitudes of his characters towards their art. I thought that some of the story-telling was choppy, and it undermined my sympathy for his character's experiences. I was surprised by the sparseness of his language in telling these stories compared with the lush detail ...more
Mar 13, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow....what did I just read??? Is this a book about the power of art and it's restorative powers, or is this a book with a heavy political agenda politely wrapped up so as not to offend the weak at heart? Probably, a bit of both.

I don't deny the atrocities of the holocaust and the evil act of man towards man. However, the author makes no apology and paints every German as evil and makes no effort to distinguish a German from a Nazi, even years after the war. I found that to be overly simplistic
Nov 11, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked up this book for the location - Tel Aviv, Israel. It was fun to read about a place I had been to. This is not your typical holocaust book with its ruminations about a meaningful life, the place creativity has in it, and the personal risks one must take to be creative. In the book Teo, an elderly dance choreographer, strikes a friendship with an unfocused artist working at his favorite cafe. Their discussions, revelations of the issues that inspire/block them, and their friendship make u ...more
May 30, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It took a while to get into it. I thought it was very good after a slow beginning. It had a very graphic sex , where Teo, a dancer was taken a prisoner by a Nazi Officer for 7 or 8 years and toldhow he raped Teo when he was a young man. At firsst Teo didn't know what was going on. Afgter teo goes to Israel and meets Vivi, a young waitress he tells her what happened tgo him and she tells him abut her own love affifr. She is about 45 years younger. Eventully they have sex, she has a child and you ...more
Micha Meinderts
It all felt a little pointless. A vehicle to tell a few life stories, nothing more. It felt like an attempt to explain why people behave in certain ways and I guess it had a lot of character development, but I missed a real plot. Teo's confession about his years in the war seemed to be intended as a big shocking twist but went on for way too long and too much detail. I really stopped caring after a while.

The pacing was off and the way the story was told was uneven. I do have to say that the insi
Jen Slipakoff
Liked the way the story changed character perspectives and also occurred during different time periods. Felt that some of the parts of the story were told too quickly and lacked detail therefore seemed unbelievable and a bit too conveniently arranged. I also had a hard time digesting some of the graphic scenes, but just skimmed them. Did love to see the growth of the relationship between Vivi and Teo...that was, to me, the aspect of the story that kept me interested in what happened next.
Mar 25, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Germany, and more specifically Berlin, looms large in this novel of dancer Teo Levin's and waitress/itinerant artist Vivi's pasts. Their pasts overshadow their present day lives in Tel Aviv. The burgeoning and evolving relationship between these two, each haunted and tethered to their past, is a ballet that gradually spins faster, but always in control.
Nov 13, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
What a.. um... well, book. The first half of the book had wonderful descriptions which I like in a book. The last half was just telling of Teo's story of his life. With a very blunt ending that I wasn't expecting I would say this book was not my favorite. It was very predictable through the whole thing. I could tell what was going to happen 20 pages before it did.
Vaun Healey
Feb 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An exquisite dance

This book has so many facets, it is like a diamond. Throughout the story of ,rare joy, and immense sadness, there is an unknown world of despair and beauty. How did they survive the horror that surrounds them I hated for this book to end.
May 21, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Not a fan. As a former dancer and current ballet teacher, I was completely disappointed with the way the ballet material was handled, some of it flat out wrong.

I would much rather recommend Adrienne Sharp's White Swan, Black Swan, or "The Dancers" from Ellen Litman's Last Chicken in America for fiction that centers on ballet dancers.
I'm not sure how to rate this book, so I'm not going to. I thought the story was interesting, but disjointed. The author devoted far more time to Teo's story than to Vivi's, and I just wasn't sure how their stories fit together.
Peggy Walt
The translator of A Pigeon and a Boy presents an unusual couple in contemporary Tel Aviv, both with hidden pasts from their days in Europe. Musings on art, ballet and what one will remembered for interweave with the painful past to give a compelling story.
Kevin Hancock
May 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a very original book that takes a fresh look at the concept of second chances. People may always have a second chance it they are willing to take the risks involved. I would recommend this book.
May 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Exquisitely written and insightful prose, extraordinarily beautiful descriptions..." My full review may be read on my book review blog Rundpinne.
Oct 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. The description of the transcendent experience of dancing was just amazing. I enjoyed the story--despite its dark and tragic elements. I'd urge anyone interested to read the description and then give it a try. I hope you'll get as much from it as I did.
Aug 03, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a wonderful read. Teo, a world famous choreographer meets Vivi a waitress and artist at a cafe in Israel as the ballet prepares to showcase one of his famous ballets. As the two meet we learn both of their tragic back stories and how they help each other. Beautifully written.
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A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Fallenberg is a graduate of Georgetown University and the MFA program in creative writing at Vermont College of Fine Arts and has lived in Israel since 1985. He is coordinator of fiction for the Shaindy Rudoff Graduate Program in Creative Writing at Bar-Ilan University; coordinator of literary translation in the Department of English Literature at Bar-Ilan University; ...more
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“He can hum the music in his old man's quivering voice, but he prefers it in his head, where it lives on in violins and reedy winds. If he imagines it in rehearsal he can remember every step of his three-minute solo as if he had danced it only yesterday, but he knows, too, that one time, onstage in Berlin, he had not danced it as he had learned it; this much he knows but cannot recreate, could no recreate it even a moment after he had finished dancing it. While dancing he had felt blind to the stage and audience, deaf to the music. He had let his body do what it needed to do, free to expand and contract in space, to soar and spin. So, accordingly, when he tries to remember the way he danced it on stage, he cannot hear the music or feel his feet or get a sense of the audience. He is embryonic, momentarily cut off from the world around him. The three most important minutes of his life, the ones that determined his fate and future, are the three to which he cannot gain access, ever.” 12 likes
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