Mande Dagenais – Inspired to Dance

Mande, can you tell us about your new book?

Inspired to Dance: Everything You Need to Know about Becoming a Professional Dancer without Breaking a Leg is my first book and I wrote if for the purpose of helping young aspiring talent learn the tricks of the trade and secrets to having a successful career in “Show Business.” The Entertainment industry can be a very tough and often discouraging business and my book shares my insider view after twenty-five plus years in the business as a Dancer, Director/Choreographer and Producer. I felt there was the need for an all inspiring “how to” guide, to help teach lessons that often only hard knock experience can teach. Inspired to Dance covers the A to Z’s, every thing from finding your inspiration and setting goals to where and how to find a gig, how to set yourself up and treat your talent as a business, audition dos and don’ts and how to prevent injury and create longevity in your career with proper health and nutrition.

I understand that you recently won an IPPY award.

Yes Inspired to Dance has won a 2010 Silver IPPY award from the Independent Publishers Book Awards in their Performing Arts Category. And, was recently nominated for an Ethan Award which is an entrepreneurial author’s award, the finalists should be announced anytime now and the winner will be announced in October this year.

Tell us something about yourself.

I am originally from Sudbury, Ontario, Canada about 4 hours North of Toronto. I was the baby of eight children, five girls and three boys. My father was a barber and my mother was, well you might have guessed it with so many children, a stay at home mom. I, being so much younger than the rest got very lucky as I was able to go to dance class. My mother worked very hard as a seamstress/costume designer and even cleaned the dance studio so that they could afford my lessons. Because of her efforts I was able to go on and have a great career as a Dancer, Director/Choreographer, and Producer. I began teaching and choreographing at the age of fifteen, moved to Toronto to pursue my career as a professional dancer at the age of eighteen, and by the time I was twenty-four years old I was living in Los Angeles and working as resident Director/Choreographer of La Cage aux Folles nightclub and revue, and performing my work for some of Hollywood’s biggest names. I have seen parts of the world that if not for my career in dance, I may never have seen.

What inspired you to write this book?

After auditioning thousands of performers I often felt (especially with the young ones first starting out) that there was a lack of knowing or preparedness for the audition and ultimately the gig. So essentially the old adage of learning from ones mistakes or through their own experience seemed to often be the only way performers really got to know about the ins and outs of the business. This combined with the countless questions asked of me over the years was my reason for writing Inspired to Dance. I really wanted to give something back to my industry and in my own way honor my mother for all that she did to make it possible. She was my true inspiration throughout my life!

How did you choose the title?

For me, there was only ever one title and that was Inspired to Dance. It said it all, inspiration—the action or power to move the intellect or emotions, and dance—my life’s passion! The subtitle Everything You Need to Know about Becoming a Professional Dancer without Breaking a Leg was a combination of my definition of my book and my two editors fine-tuning and clever additions.

Did you always want to be a writer? How did you get started?

I always loved to write from the time I was a young girl but this wasn’t something that I had ever thought about doing for a living. I was always going to dance, that was never a question. Several years ago I thought that I would like to write a series of children’s books and so I started writing stories about my niece’s little dog which I look forward to publishing soon. Inspired to Dance began as an audition and career workshop, I was writing and the information was just pouring out of me, that’s when I decided that my workshop was more than a workshop, it was ultimately a book. Three years later I published Inspired to Dance.

Do you have any writing rituals?

Not really, I do love to just get down to it, so once I start I’m often on a roll. I like to go to Starbucks and work there, I like the idea of getting out otherwise I feel a bit anti-social as I can go for days and hours on end, so it’s a bit like being in lock-down. And as my whole life has been in the Entertainment Industry I’m extremely accustomed to working with large groups and being surrounded by people in a very social atmosphere.

Did you learn anything from writing and publishing this book? What?

Being a first time author I learned so much about the publishing process and about myself as a writer. I learned about my own style and habits, the importance of having patience, scheduling and publishing timelines—planning your launch so that you can maximize on promotion leading up to it, and the process from writing to pitching and finally publishing your work. I was very fortunate early on to have been guided by two experienced authors Rusty Fischer and Arlene Uslander. After pitching my book to several publishers I received interest from McFarland and Company and I learned what one can expect from and how to communicate with a traditional publishing house. I eventually made the decision to self-publish simply because this first book was somewhat personal in nature and the book that McFarland and Company wanted from me was more of a text book. I was thrilled at their interest and I hope to have the opportunity to write a text book for them in the near future. I had an editorial evaluation done through iUniverse which was a huge help in teaching me about, and helping me to ensure that my book was up to, traditional publishing standards. I probably created a bit more work for myself but I learned so much for it. I did what felt like a hundred re-writes and proof reads with the assistance of those few closest to me and I had fantastic guidance from my editor and my editorial consultant. I learned even more patience as this is never a quick process especially on your own, but because of it I have a product that I am very proud of.

If you were doing it all over again, what would you do differently?

I would try to apply all that I learned in an effort to be more efficient with my time. And I would plan my book launch to maximize on the magazine timelines and other time sensitive press.

What book are you reading now? What types of books do you generally like to read and why?

At the moment I am finishing The Mystery of Fate, Common Coincidence or Divine Intervention which I am thoroughly enjoying, it is a wonderful anthology of stories where lives have been touched in some way by fate. I tend to read a lot of non-fiction as I am always looking to learn something new or reinforce an existing belief. I like to read about Health & Nutrition, predominantly Alternative Medicine and I enjoy books on Spirituality. I love inspirational uplifting stories. When it comes to fiction I am a big Harry Potter fan and when on holiday I love to relax with John Grisham.

Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?

At the moment I am co-writing, with my very dear friend and co-worker a memoir of his fascinating life as the producer and nightclub owner of the original La Cage aux Folles and An Evening at La Cage revues around the country and abroad, Producer, Lou Paciocco’s Inside the Gilded Cage. Once completed I will get straight down to business with a follow up to my book Inspired to Dance and then I hope to complete my children’s mini series that I have been writing for some time. The children’s collection is about a travelling trio who are very close to my own heart; it’s about their many adventures on the road and in the business!

What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?

Very similar advice that I’ve given to those who want to make it in the Entertainment Industry: Do it because you love it and are passionate about it first and foremost! If you don’t have the passion you probably won’t have the wherewithal to endure and survive the bumpy and often lengthy road to achievement. Be serious about your work but don’t take yourself too seriously.

Who is the perfect reader for your book?

I would say that my perfect reader is one who is aspiring to pursue a career in the dance world or in show business. My book appeals naturally to the dancers and relatives or friends of, however one of the greatest endorsements I received was from a wrestler. He told me that he wished my book had been available when he was starting out in the wrestling business as the lessons that my book taught would have been invaluable to preparing him for his own career. I believe that the lessons in my book are not just about dance or show business but they are about life and apply to most anyone!

Where can readers learn more about you and your book?

Readers can learn more about my book and my background at my book’s website or at iUniverse,, and Barnes & Noble websites.