There are shortcuts to happiness, and dancing is one of them.

Vicki Baum

Author and screenwriter Vicki Baum’s life was bookended by her youth in Austria and her final decades as a U.S. citizen. In between, she experienced major artistic breakthroughs while living in Germany. In 1929, she published the international bestseller “People in a Hotel” — the basis for “Grand Hotel,” 1932’s Best Picture Oscar winner starring Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, and the Barrymore brothers. Yet this period of great literary success began with modern dance, a discovery Baum made while researching her successful earlier novel, 1921’s “Ina Raffay’s Dances.” Baum spent more than a decade studying modern dance, a creative outlet that brought her immense delight and opened her mind to new avenues of storytelling. Encouraged to improvise at the end of her very first class, she would later remember, “I felt as though I hadn’t begun to live until that afternoon.”