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Quick, Before the Music Stops: How Ballroom Dancing Saved My Life Hardcover – July 8, 2008

4.7 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

A couple of decades ago, the author was a competitive ballroom dancer who chose to leave dancing to raise a family; at the time, there was the feeling that competitive dancing might not be what most people would consider an appropriate career for a young woman. Later, after she had become a successful magazine editor, with a husband and children, she nevertheless felt unfulfilled, as though her life was missing some vital part of herself. Then, on Valentine’s Day, her husband gave her a gift of ballroom-dancing classes, and Carlson took the first step on the road to finding herself again. This is one of those rediscovering-myself memoirs, capably written and occasionally moving, if ultimately familiar to readers familiar with the increasingly popular genre. Thanks to the recent high profile of competitive ballroom dancing—both on television and in films—it’s likely that the milieu of the story may attract more interest than the voyage to self-discovery. --David Pitt


With insight and humor, Janet Carlson shares the joy, exhilarations, and self-revelations that ballroom dancing has brought her. She draws the reader into her lessons, her partnerships, and her life, and in doing so reveals just how accurately ballroom dancing both reflects and transforms life.
-- Bruno Collins, Vice President, American Ballroom Company; previously National Dance Director, Fred Astaire Dance Studios

"How gratifying to read a book that uses dancing as a metaphor for life and shows how it inspires the steps forward that every woman needs to take. This riveting personal story is guaranteed to help anyone find their center and balance. Brava Janet!"
-Evelyn Lauder, Senior Corporate Vice President of the Esteé Lauder Companies, Inc.

"Janet Carlson beautifully describes ballroom dancing as intricate, joyful, athletic, and most importantly, a way to learn how to live life. If you can't hit the dance floor, read this book. Better yet, do both."
-Barbara Lazear Ascher, author of Landscape without Gravity and Playing After Dark

"It's like combining a gym membership and therapy. Plus you get to do it in heels."
-- Los Angeles Times

"Carlson is to be commended not only for getting out of her marriage and moving on, but also writing about it in such an open and liberating manner."
-- USA Today

"Carlson draws you into the experience until you feel you are in the arms of a muscular Eastern European in tight pants. Is that such a bad thing?"
-- New York Post

"While Elizabeth Gilbert [author of Eat, Pray, Love] traveled the world to suss out what she needed to know, Janet Carlson had only to buy the right shoes and show up at a local dance studio."
-- Daily News

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway; 1 edition (July 8, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 076792682X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767926829
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,824,803 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There are too many books out there about how ballroom dancing changed an author's perspective on life. While I can appreciate each writer's experience and their desire to share with others, each of these books seems to read the same, with nothing of true depth and substance to really engage me. I typically finish these books out of obligation rather than interest. Despite this, I continue to read every new book on social or ballroom dance that I can find because I hold out hope that someone will offer something unique and remarkable.

Janet Carlson's book has validated that hope. Her story begins with the realization of an inner death, the result of a lifeless marriage and an endless cycle of quiet and obligation. What captured me immediately was her beautifully descriptive writing and unique voice. At first I felt Carlson was sharing a little too much detail about the inadequacy of her husband. I felt sorry that his dirty laundry was - both literally and figuratively - being left out for all to see.

However, I quickly found myself engrossed in Carlson's journey back into the world of ballroom dancing and how it changed her physical, mental, and emotional landscape. Most books that attempt self help or metaphorical parallels between dancing and life are too saccharine and simplistic. Carlson, however, touches on complex and rich life lessons without preaching or giving simplistic answers. Her strength in this book lies in her ability to put the truth out there in all its complexity, to admit undesired emotions or those we don't like to admit or talk about. This honesty and depth kept me hooked throughout the book.
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Format: Hardcover
Janet Carlson's "Quick, Before The Music Stops" spoke to my soul more than any book has in a long time. I cannot begin to convey how much I enjoyed Carlson's story, as it unfolded through the various stages of her life as a wife, mother and dancer. As someone who entered the world of ballroom dancing just a year ago, I understood profoundly Carlson's passion for dancing. Like Carlson, ballroom dance has become my therapy, my escape from daily life in suburbia.

I appreciated the honesty and introspection by which Carlson revealed all the facets of her persona in experiencing the ups and downs of her life at that time. Carlson's account of her experiences with her instructors, their interesting personalities and how they played roles in informing her dancing as well as her self-image was extremely realistic. And I truly loved the descriptive dance passages!

Carlson's story - one that remained with me long after reading it - left me the same way each and every ballroom dance lesson leaves me: refreshed, energized and joyful. The words flowed off the page as an extremely well-written account that proved so relevant to my own life. I recommend Janet Carlson's book to anyone who wants and/or needs a spark of inspiration or passion in any facet of life.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Really enjoyed this book. I loved that, in one sense, it is about recognizing your demons, questioning them, airing them out, and taking away their power. So much of what we do and who we are is based in fear and lack of introspection. For example, I cried when I read the scene where Janet sees the 14-year-old girl, and then realizes all the personalities she (Janet) carries inside that are, even if misguided, just trying to do their jobs (e.g. the "bitch nag" who, at the heart of it all, is trying to protect Janet.)

This is a thinking book, but it's well-paced and suspenseful because the author's revelations, which lead to self-empowerment, are discovered through ballroom dancing. For example, one of her instructors is generous and helps her bloom, while another uses her for his own grandiosity, diminishing her in the process, and she had to grow enough to learn the difference. Is that not a cautionary tale for all of us in our relationships?

I found this book to be thoroughly satisfying on so many levels, not the least of which was my own enlightenment. A real joy to read. Made me wish I could dance!
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