Oh, ballet dancers: We're nothing if not perfectionists. From our first class we're programmed to eliminate flaws--or at least camouflage them.

But what happens when things go truly wrong? Last night at New York City Ballet, soloist Savannah Lowery was blazing through the lead role in the Second Campaign of Stars and Stripes--a part she dances frequently--with her usual brio. Then, during her second entrance, she took a tumble, and appeared to injure herself. How do you "camouflage" the fact that you're sitting on the floor and some part of your body is no longer working?

Savannah couldn't quite--nobody could--but she made a laudably valiant effort. She survived the remaining 30 seconds or so of her solo, performing the port de bras, if not the legwork, full out. She even managed the final relevé in arabesque before exiting with as much grace and dignity as she could muster. (Feel better soon, Savannah!)

That's what I call professionalism. Also earning a gold (or red, white and blue?) star: Gwyneth Muller, who pulled off an impressive quick change and stepped in for Savannah in the coda, making nary a faux pas.

What happens, then, when disaster strikes? At NYCB, cool heads and strong wills save the day.

Summer Intensive Survival
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There's a sweet spot toward the end of August—after summer intensives have wrapped up and before it's time to head back to school or work—where the days are long, lazy and begging to be spent neck-deep in a pile of good books. Whether you're looking for inspiration for the upcoming season or trying to brush up on your dance history, you can never go wrong with an excellent book on ballet. We've gathered eight titles (all available at common booksellers like Amazon and Barnes and Noble) guaranteed to give you a deeper understanding of the art form, to add to your end-of-summer reading list.

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James Yoichi Moore and Noelani Pantastico warm up onstage. Angela Sterling, Courtesy SDC.

On a sunny July weekend, hundreds of Seattle-area dance fans converged on tiny Vashon Island, a bucolic enclave in Puget Sound about 20 miles from the city. They made the ferry trek to attend the debut performance of the fledgling Seattle Dance Collective.

SDC is not a run-of-the-mill contemporary dance company; it's the brainchild of two of Pacific Northwest Ballet's most respected principal dancers: James Yoichi Moore and Noelani Pantastico. The duo wanted to create a nimble organization to feature dancers and choreographers they felt needed more exposure in the Pacific Northwest.

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Roman Mejia in Robbins' Dances at a Gathering. Erin Baiano, Courtesy NYCB.

The Princess Grace Foundation has just announced its 2019 class, and we're thrilled that two ballet dancers—New York City Ballet's Roman Mejia and BalletX's Stanley Glover—are included among the list of über-talented actors, filmmakers, playwrights, dancers and choreographers.

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The Royal Ballet's Alexander Campbell and Yasmine Naghdi in Ashton's The Two Pigeons. Tristram Kenton, Courtesy ROH.

While most ballet casts are 100 percent human, it's not unheard of for live animals to appear onstage, providing everything from stage dressing to supporting roles. Michael Messerer's production of Don Quixote features a horse and a donkey; American Ballet Theatre's Giselle calls for two Russian wolfhounds; and Sir Frederick Ashton's La Fille Mal Gardee requires a white Shetland pony. Another Ashton masterpiece, The Two Pigeons, is well known for its animal actors. But though ballet is a highly disciplined, carefully choreographed art form, some performers are naturally more prone to flights of fancy—because they're birds.

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