Mountain Shadows Academy of the Arts

In Codename: Dancer and Pointe of No Return, Dani and her friends attend the Mountain Shadows Academy of the Arts in Scottsdale, Arizona. Mountain Shadows is described as an elite training ground for the nation’s up-and-coming actors, dancers, singers, and artists.

Q: Is the Mountain Shadows Academy of the Arts real?

A: It’s a figment of my imagination, but is based on some actual arts boarding schools. My little cousin Kristin attended the dance program at South Carolina Governor’s School of the Arts, a general-focus residential arts high school which was the inspiration for the structure of Mountain Shadows. Although I did dance in a amateur competitive company (the 22nd Century Jazz Ensemble at Dance by Kempson) throughout my preteens and teens, I never attended a ballet boarding school. But fear not — I did my research and spoke with dancers who’ve attended such places as the School of American Ballet, the Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, and the North Carolina School of the Arts to get the details right.

As for the name of the school, that was entirely for my own amusement. My husband and I got married at Mountain Shadows Resort in Paradise Valley, Arizona, a picturesque hotel overlooking Camelback Mountain. The resort was built in the 1950s and became a sort of home away from home for many Hollywood stars when they would escape to Arizona for the winter. But only a few months after we tied the knot, the resort was sold to a developer who planned to redevelop the land to build luxury homes. Of course, the recesssion hit around that time, and the development never occured. Instead, the hotel portion of Mountain Shadows Resort has sat shuttered for the past 8 years (although the golf course lives on).

That made me sad, so when I decided to set my series in Arizona (in homage to my years of law school in the Grand Canyon State), the grounds of Mountain Shadows seemed the logical location for my fictional school. I got to envision my own new use for the once-great hotel — as the campus of a performing arts boarding school. I created a grande dame of the Hollywood era for the founder and imagined that perhaps she had been amongst the actors who used to be “snowbirds” at Mountain Shadows, so she bought the land to build a school. I mean, how could we let that amazing location just fall into disrepair?

Of course, none of that little fairy tale actually occurred. And I don’t explain it that way in the story either. That’s just the backstory in my own head, so I can sigh with contentment and remember my wedding day. :) I just used it as the inspiration and borrowed the name. Interestingly enough, it’s been reported that Mountain Shadows has been sold – again — and that it will be redeveloped as a luxury hotel.

So maybe my wedding venue will finally get its happily ever after…after all.

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