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Every day he sits in the same booth in the coffee bar and she brings him his coffee. They strike up a most unusual friendship, this eighty-four-year-old former ballet dancer and choreographer of great renown in the world of the arts, and forty-two-year-old waitress. She tells him that she likes to “dabble” in various forms of arts and crafts. Ah, but you cannot master all of them, he tells her. You must focus on just one in order to achieve greatness. For her it is too late to achieve the kind of artistic perfection that Teobold Levin did a young man, isn’t it? She, Vivi, the daughter of an outspoken Holocaust survivor, lives in a flat she shares with her gay roommate, Pinchi, a DJ at a dance club about whom she fantasizes. After work, she wanders the streets of Tel Aviv, walking, walking, walking . . .

Teo is coaching the dance troupe in the studio just downstairs. They are restaging his masterpiece ballet, ironically titled Obsession, and he is teaching the dancers to make sure that the interpretation is correct, his legacy intact. Unbelievably, Teo feels that he has not accomplished anything and has only that ballet to leave the world as his legacy.

“A week after I had the concept in my head, when I tried to remember where it came from, I had no idea. . . . Between the idea and the fleshing out of it, that’s the hard part. That still takes years.
~ Author

So two solitary souls come together and begin sharing their lives and their stories with each other. She was a soldier in the Israeli army who fell in love with a man she knew her parents would never accept, so she literally ran away from her home to live with him. Teo tells her he can see that she has been the victim of a man even before he knows the details of her life in Berlin just a few years before the wall separating East and West Germany came down.

Teo was the young benefactor of a wealthy former ballerina who recognized his talent and arranged for him to escape Warsaw before it fell to the Nazis in order to study with the Royal Danish Ballet. Later, he studied with the great George Balanchine. He says he has been in love twice in his life, both times as a young man, many decades ago. As Teo contemplates his fast-approaching eighty-fifth birthday, he wishes he had created a family for himself and corresponds with his sister about his regrets.

What can Teo and Vivi learn from each other about life, the pursuit of artistic excellence, and the desire to feel that you have lived your life to the fullest?


Author Evan Fallenberg
Author Evan Fallenberg’s prose is a delightful surprise, as lithe, graceful, and lyrical as the ballet movements he describes. When We Danced on Water is remarkable because it is simultaneously a sprawling, epic novel set in various time periods and numerous locales such as pre-World War II Poland, Denmark, and Berlin, Berlin in the early 1980’s, and modern-day Tel Aviv, and an intensely intimate character study of two people whose lives are forever changed because they come together in a seemingly random manner.

Both lead characters, Teo and Vivi, are fully-formed and fascinatingly complex. Teo has always kept his own counsel, letting his public persona and achievements speak for him while maintaining a private, but unfulfilled existence. How can he possibly believe that he has not done enough in his lifetime when he has won acclaim for his artistic vision and achievements that will live on long after he is gone? The passionate drive for artistic perfection fuels his need to know that his legacy, primarily comprised, in his mind, of his penultimate creation, Obsession, will live on precisely as he designed it. Like all great visionaries, he feels he should have accomplished more, but still wonders if the sacrifices were too great, if he gave up too much in order to succeed.

When I work on characters, even if they start out resembling someone real, the more I work on them, the more they take
on a life of their own. Sometimes they even inform me of experiences that I didn’t know they had.
~ Author Evan Fallenberg

Vivi has, prior to meeting Teo, just been existing, working in the coffee bar and, as she puts it, “dabbling” in various artistic mediums. Unlike Teo, she has never achieved artistic greatness and knowing him sparks a passion deep within her that makes her want to push herself. As Teo’s guest, she attends a rehearsal for Obsession and observes Teo coaching the young dancers. For a few brief moments, as he rises from his chair and joins the dancers on the floor, she sees him raise his hands, draw up his spine, and demonstrate the movements he wants them to emulate, giving her a glimpse as the beautiful dancer he once was and, in many ways, still is. Seeing the finished work with Teo at her side moves and inspires her to pursue her own artistic goals, forever changing her life.

That Fallenberg loves his protagonists is obvious from the tender-hearted manner in which he pulls his readers into their innermost memories and emotions. Their painful pasts are painstakingly revealed, the narrative moving from time period and location in successive chapters as Fallenberg peels away the decades so that readers can fully understand the two people who start off their relationship over the same order each morning. Fallenberg’s writing is richly elegant and deeply affecting, making it a surprisingly quick but satisfying tale about love, passion, and obsession.

I read When We Danced on Water in conjunction with the 2011 Read ‘n’ Review, Outdo Yourself, and Spring Reading Thing 2011 Challenges.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one copy of When We Danced on Water free of charge from the author in conjunction with the TLC Book Tours review and virtual book tour program. I was not required to write a positive review in exchange for receipt of the book; rather, the opinions expressed in this review are my own. This disclosure complies with 16 Code of Federal Regulations, Part 255, “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Enter to Win a Copy of When We Danced on Water

One lucky reader, selected at random, will receive a copy of When We Danced on Water, graciously provided by the author.

Post a comment explaining why you would like to read When We Danced on Water, being sure to include your email address (for notification and delivery purposes). The book can only be shipped to a United States or Canadian address (no P.O. box).

The comment posted by Connie Shelor was selected at random and a copy of When We Danced on Water is en route to Connie!

Thanks to all who participated!


  1. Sounds like a beautiful book mixing art and history. I’d love to be entered.

  2. This looks like a interesting book. The two main characters are very fully developed, and the background of several time periods and countries looks intriguing. Thanks for the giveaway.

  3. mamabunny13

    I want to win this book because reading how Teo wished he had created a family of his own made my heart go out to him. It sounds like he had some hard chices in life. I need to find out how his story ends and what becomes of Vivi.
    mamabunny13 at gmail dot com

  4. Mary Ward

    I’d love to read this because it sounds like a book you just can’t put down.

  5. i am intrigued by this storyline…thanks for the chance to read this beautiful novel 🙂

  6. This sounds like an incredible book. I love books that explore two characters with intense stories, especially when the characters meet in an ordinary way (waitress brings coffee to an elderly gent every day). What also interests me is that the setting for the novel is in Tel Aviv…I always like learning about other cultures.

  7. It sounds like a novel that has captured the life of a man, who has made choices. Some of which he regrets. I would love to read it.

  8. Krystal Larson

    I love how the author aims ot evoke emotions in his readers through careful manipulation of the characters, plot, and scenes. The summary of this book sounds touching and sweet. I would love to read this book. Never regret your choices in life. I really love how the author chose Tel Aviv as a setting for the book, I can never find any novels with these more unique settings. edysicecreamlover18@gmailDOTcom

  9. Thank you so much for the review. I have to say that had I just seen the book on a shelf and read the back blurb, I probably would have passed, but with the information and content, as well as the review you have shared the story has come alive and I would dearly love to read it Thank you for the chance to win the giveaway and I hope I win, but the book will go on my wishlist anyway!

  10. Tiffany D.

    I would love to read this book because the story seems very intense. I love a good story that drags you in deep with the characters and doesn’t let you go, long after you have finished the book. This looks like one of those books to me.


  11. Kate Hensel

    Thanks for the chance to win!

    hense1kk AT cmich DOT edu

  12. I love the comparison between the author’s writing style and ballet itself, and I love that the book is both quick and satisfying. I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  13. Brittany Gale

    I would like to read it because it sounds like a great book that I would really enjoy


  14. Michelle C

    I would love to read this book because of the historical aspect and also the author’s quotes caught my attention. Thanks for the chance to win!
    mrsmchappell at gmail dot com

  15. This sounds like a terrific and unique story. I think ballet is beautiful and would love to read this book.

    Thank you for hosting a giveaway of it!

    Amy recently posted..Cat Thursday Sadie!My Profile

  16. If I don’t win I will still read this book. I love to read stories with so many subjects that interest me. I enjoy the ballet and like to read stories about holocaust survivors. Interesting friendship between a young woman and older man. Thank you.


  17. Samantha

    The content sounds so unlike anything I’ve read before. It’s definitely not a cliche love story, I’ll give you that!! Thanks for the giveaway! ^_^

  18. Pingback: Sunday Caught My Interest « Reflections from the Hinterland

  19. judy clark

    i have read the first book by evan fallenberg
    light fell
    and found it moving and profound
    and beautifully written prose

    i would love to have the opportunity to read this book as well

  20. judy clark

    i loved the first book and would very much like to read fallenbergs second book as it was well reviewed
    thanks for entering my email address and name
    judy clark

  21. I am a huge historical novel fan. I have recently begun to look into the portion of that genre where part of the book is historical and part modern day. This book is one that I have not heard of yet. I am so excited to read this book 🙂 Thank you for doing a review of this book.
    Jessy recently posted..The Point of LifeMy Profile

  22. I love books where people connect on different levels.

  23. I love to read historical novels and would love to read this one

  24. Meredith Miller

    This story sounds wonderful. I love that it’s about two different generations sharing a part of themselves.

    meredithfl at gmail dot com

  25. Raven In A Blue Room

    I would like to win because I like the composition of these unusual characters
    Thank you for hosting this giveaway

    schnitzomage {at} gmail {dot} com

  26. Pingback: Life in Review: “When We Danced On Water” by Evan Fallenberg « Life In Review

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