Connor Holloway is a producer, co-creator and bestie of Ballerina Book Club. Connor is also a dancer with American Ballet Theatre, gender non-conforming, a Pisces, Brooklynite and a lover of strong, black coffee!
“I wish I had more hours in the day so I could read more. When I can, I love chewing on The New Yorker and then spitting it out at everyone I know. Those articles are long, and people need to know I can hack my way through to the other side.”
Read on below to learn more about the Ballerina Book Club co-founder’s reading habits and — extra, extra — tune in to Connor’s “Listen While You Read” playlist.
What was the last book you recommended to a friend?
“Beyond the Gender Binary,” by Alok Vaid-Menon. I recommended it to a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion group that I am a part of at work. It is part of a collection published by Penguin Random House called the “Pocket Change Collective.” They are these little books you can literally carry in your pocket, or your hipster fanny pack, and they are super informative. This one is written by one of my favorite gender activists and speaks to the history and reality of gender in the world and our society today. 10/10 recommend!
What’s your reading style?
My favorite place to read is on the subway. It makes commuting tolerable and actually makes me look forward to getting on the train. I live in Brooklyn and have at least a 45-minute commute into the city; so I can really turn some pages. I like to have my over-ear headphones on with something chill playing so I can really drown out the world around me.
What was your relationship to reading like as a kid?
I absolutely hated reading as a child. It was a total chore and actually uncomfortable to do. My brain just couldn’t focus the way it needed to absorb the information on the pages. I loved the idea of being a reader and made many attempts, but almost never completed a book.
How do reading and books inform how you relate to your career as a dancer?
I have always enjoyed reading the librettos of the classic story-tale ballets we frequently perform at American Ballet Theatre. For those that don’t know, a libretto (Italian for booklet) is a short written text used for musical works. They explain the setting, characters and the storyline. Mostly you hear of these being used for opera. But what many people don’t know is that classical ballets have them as well.
Historically, the libretto would be the first piece of a ballet production that came to life. Choreography, musical composition, set design, casting were all to follow! In today’s world any one of those subsequent elements could be the initiating catalyst. So once upon a time, ballets began as books! I highly recommend checking them out; it is fascinating to see how the character and storylines have evolved with time. Perhaps intentionally, perhaps not.
How did you get into ballet as a profession?
I got into ballet by way of musical theater. As a kid, I always imagined myself on Broadway. Singing while dancing and acting was what made me feel most alive. At a certain age, musical theater got sidelined and ballet got serious. I still dream of returning to it one day. I love ballet a lot, but sometimes the silence of it can feel limiting. As with literature, I adore the beauty of words and what they can express.
What advice would you offer to someone trying to break into your field?
Have other interests! Other hobbies! Ballet is an incredibly wonderful career. There is so much beauty in the daily life of a dancer. Also a lot of struggle. But on the whole — wonderful. What keeps me happy and keeps me sane is passion, practice and interest in other things. When you can see a greater picture and have a more holistic understanding of your potential and worth, it is life-changing. The hardest thing for me about ballet is feeling trapped inside my body and its limitations. See your world and your life as bigger, greater and more beautiful than yourself, and you are set for success!
What’s a passion outside of your public persona that people might be surprised to know about?
I am pretty passionate about religion. I don’t talk much about it, but I have a curiosity that runs deep to my core when it comes to religion and spirituality. I have read, researched and attended services of more religions than anyone would likely care to know. I think there is something really incredible and beautiful about spirituality; and I am fascinated at the innate human inclination towards it.
Favorite book store?
It’s a New York City classic and undeniably one of my favorites: The Strand Book Store. Every time I’m there it’s an adventure. I really like that you can purchase used books for a discounted price. I also love how it’s always so crowded with the most eclectic crowd of New York’s bookworms. I frequent the one near ABT’s studios at Broadway and 12th Street.
I believe that “The Alchemist” is one of the most translated books by a living author. And after reading it, I absolutely understand why. It is simplistic in its language and its message but meaningful in a very deep and existential way. This book, to me, is to believe in good, to trust in the universe, and to trust in myself and my personal journey. As a person who lives with pretty perpetual anxiety, this book brought me relief and comfort. It felt like a book I would want to read to my children at a young age and revisit at an older age.
I could not put this book down. In fact, I think this may be the only book I have ever read in one sitting. This book is absolutely transportive in all of the best ways. Baldwin truly has a way with words. 1956. Paris. Smokey bars. Sweeping love affairs. This conflicted queer romance novel took me on a trip, and when I turned the final page, my heart ached for days.
“I don’t know what’s worse: to not know what you are and be happy, or to become what you’ve always wanted to be, and feel alone.” — Daniel Keyes
Thinking about this book makes me smile. It was recommended to me by one of my best friends, Skylar Brandt. Apparently, it’s a classic for middle school readers but somehow my Catholic school curriculum deprived me of this treasure. It poses a question I have often wondered: How blissful can ignorance be? The book is centered on Charlie Gordon. The walking embodiment of joie de vivre but with very limited intellectual capabilities. A surgeon offers to make Charlie the smartest person on Earth, and I offer you a kind demand to read it and find out what happens!
I found this book on the subway! True story! It contained a Housing Works receipt with the owner’s name on it, and I found him on Facebook. Turns out, we have similar taste in literature, he’s a fellow performer in the city, and now we swap likes on social media. The universe can be really fun sometimes.
I knew from the moment we had our chance encounter I was going to love this book. I just wasn’t prepared for it to become one of my favorites. Almost anything that is set in NYC in the ‘80s has my heart; but this also hit a soft spot because much of the plot is centered on a young man’s coming of age, coming out and coming to see his parents as people. Truthfully, I think this book found me.
Isabella Boylston actually told me to read this book! And I did! This book is so epic and also happens to be considered one of the founding books of the genre Feminist science fiction. Le Guin’s vivid character and world-building just blew my mind. Talk about inventive.
The story follows an envoy who is trying to convince the leaders of a foreign planet to join their confederation. The success of the envoy’s mission quickly becomes dependent upon his ability to communicate and understand a culture vastly different from his own. “The Left Hand of Darkness” puts a magnifying glass to the over-arching effects that sex and gender play on society and relationships. The ideas posed in this book opened my mind’s eyes in the most exciting of ways.
A book you’ve always wanted to read but for whatever reason haven’t?
Hard to say … I think anything that is over 500 pages intimidates me. I don’t think of myself as a person having commitment issues, but when a book that weighs more than a small cat is recommended to me, I politely ghost. But I do hope to get over this someday because many great works of literature exceed this personal limit of mine. I’ll keep you posted!
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