When We Danced on Water

When We Danced on Water

by Evan Fallenberg

Gail Reid (11/07/11): I could not do a better job than Debbie did summarizing this unusual story. I wholeheartedly concur that this is a book that lingers in your mind long after you finish it. It speaks to the fact that two very different people like Teo and Vivi, more than a generation apart in age, become soul mates and lovers and are joined together by their understanding of and passion for the creative process.

I had assumed that this book was a Holocaust story because flashbacks to World War II feature prominently in Teo's chapters. However, it is not a Holocaust story but a war story. The brutality and emotional destruction that damaged Teo for the rest of his life are graphically portrayed and not easily forgotten.

This is a small but powerful book and one that can lead to a really good discussion.
Rating: ****

Debbie Weiss (09/15/11): When We Danced on Water takes place in contemporary Israel, but there are flashbacks to other cities in other times throughout the book. The story revolves around two individuals, Teo and Vivi. Teo was born in Poland but moved to Denmark to attend The Ballet Academy in his late teens. He was a brilliant ballet dancer in his youth and at the age of 85, he is still one of the world's most influential choreographers. He was instrumental in establishing the Tel Aviv Ballet and is still actively involved in training dancers for current performances. In spite of his artistic successes, Teo's personal life is almost nonexistent and has been this way for many years. He often thinks that maybe he did not make the right decisions in life and should have taken the time to have a family.

Teo stops off for coffee each morning at a cafe on his way to work and he strikes up a relationship with the waitress, Vivi, a woman in her 40's who also considers herself to be an artist. Her artistic pursuits are eclectic --- painting, sculpting, photography, etc. Vivi is socially isolated, just as Teo is, having had an unfortunate romantic relationship with a German while she was in the army. She has never been able to get over it and move on with her life. These two lonely people have long discussions about the creative process and the concept of passion vs. obsession.

Over time, their friendship deepens and they confide in each other about the darkest secrets of their past. Both spent time in Berlin, but during different years and under very different circumstances. Teo and Vivi care for each other and by revealing their stories to each other, they help each other heal. I thought this was a beautifully written book and I am glad that I read it because it is the kind of book you continue to think about long after you are done reading it.
Rating: ****

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