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7 New Dance Books for the Bunhead in Your Life

An interior photo of 14-year-old Em Marie, from Jordan Matter's new book Born to Dance. Photo courtesy Workman Publishing.

Looking for a last-minute gift for your ballet bookworm? Here's a sampling of recently published dance books for bunheads of all kinds, whether they're a health nut, a ballet history buff or just learning to point their toes.


Ballet: The Definitive Illustrated Story

Photo by Jayme Thornton.

Every ballet lover needs this on their coffee table. Published by DK Books, Ballet: The Definitive Illustrated Story was authored by a team of dance writers and historians, and includes a forward by former Royal Ballet star Viviana Durante (who serves as the book's consultant). With the help of illustrations, photographs, timelines and anecdotes, Ballet: The Definitive Illustrated Story explores the productions, choreographers, composers and dancers who have shaped our beloved art form from its royal court beginnings to the modern era. Available in hardcover, e-book.

Where to buy: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Target, Books-A-Million, IndieBound

Born to Dance: Celebrating the Wonder of Childhood

Photo courtesy Workman Publishing.

Dance photographer Jordan Matter, the man behind 2012's best-selling Dancers Among Us, is out with a new photography book featuring—you guessed it—the younger dancers among us. Born to Dance: Celebrating the Wonders of Childhood (Workman Publishing) captures children of all ages striking dance poses in the unlikeliest of settings: the baseball field, the airport, the grocery store, you name it. In addition to showing us the vitality and freedom of young dance students, Matter also addresses serious issues kids face today, like bullying and loneliness. Available in hardcover, paperback and e-book.

Where to buy: Workman Publishing, Amazon, Books-A-Million, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound

Start With This: A Road Map for Developing Inner Strength, Vision and Work Ethic

Photo by Jayme Thornton.

Former New York City Ballet dancer Deanna McBrearty speaks to aspiring ballet dancers in her new book, Start With This: A Road Map for Developing Inner Strength, Vision and Work Ethic. Using her own dance journey, McBrearty offers introspective lessons on how to navigate the demands and challenges of the dance world without losing yourself in the process. Brutally honest accounts of her career at NYCB, including intimidating meetings with former ballet master in chief Peter Martins, show how McBrearty learned to advocate for herself in a world that preferred she be silent and obedient. Each chapter ends with a spotlight lesson for young readers to reflect on. Available in paperback; 2-packs, 10-packs and signed copies are also available.

Where to buy: deannamcbrearty.com, Amazon

Jerome Robbins: A Life in Dance

Photo courtesy Yale University Press.

Companies all over the world have been celebrating the centennial of Jerome Robbins' birth with tribute performances. What better way to celebrate at home than by curling up with a new biography? Award-winning critic Wendy Lesser's Jerome Robbins: A Life in Dance (Yale University Press), released in October, examines both the artist and his art. While her book is relatively short, Lesser manages to deftly analyze Robbins' greatest works, with chapters devoted to some of his most well-known ballets and Broadway productions. Along the way she also touches on his famous collaborations with George Balanchine, Leonard Bernstein and Tanaquil Le Clercq, as well as his notoriously demanding personality in the studio. Available in hardcover and e-book.

Where to buy: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound, Indigo, Powell's , Yale University Press

Eat Right Dance Right

Photo courtesy Scioscia.

Dancers rely on their bodies, which is why giving them proper nourishment is so important. Enter Marie Elena Scioscia, a registered dietitian with an extensive background treating dancers. Her new book, Eat Right Dance Right, is a practical, easy-to-use guide on how to fuel your body for the rigors of a dance career. Scioscia explains how metabolism and calories work, breaks down the building blocks of a nutritious diet, dispels diet myths, and offers grocery shopping tips and sample menus. A great educational tool, Eat Right Dance Right will help you create healthy eating habits for stronger performance. Available in paperback.

Where to buy: cinchnutrition.com

Conditioning for Dance: Training for Whole-Body Coordination and Efficiency, Second Edition

Photo courtesy Human Kinetics.

For dancers interested in supplementing their ballet training, Conditioning for Dance: Training for Whole-Body Coordination and Efficiency (Human Kinetics) is the ultimate resource. Written by master teacher Eric Franklin, this book offers hundreds of conditioning exercises and visualization techniques (complete with illustrations and photos) to help improve alignment, balance, flexibility and strength throughout the body. First published in 2004, this recently released second edition includes two new chapters plus a web resource with video clips of exercise tutorials, two 20-minute workouts and a personal conditioning program. Available in paperback and e-book.

Where to buy: humankinetics.com, Barnes & Noble, Walmart

On Tiptoes/De Puntitas 

Photo courtesy BookBank USA.

Inspire the little dancer in your life with On Tiptoes/De Puntitas, a new bilingual children's book based on the life of San Francisco Ballet principal Sasha De Sola. Written by Catalina V. Monterrubio and gorgeously illustrated by Gabriela García, On Tiptoes/De Puntitas is actually two stories: The first follows De Sola, who as a young girl takes ballet to overcome her shyness and later faces a career-threatening injury. The second story is about a young boy who, after seeing De Sola perform onstage, is inspired to become a dancer himself. Available in hardcover.

Where to buy: BookBank USA and select stores in San Francisco

Need More Ideas?

Here are links to other books we featured earlier this year:

Celestial Bodies: How to Look at Ballet, by esteemed dance critic Laura Jacobs, offers poetic insights for budding balletomanes on how to watch and appreciate this beautiful, often mysterious art form.

Trailblazer: The Story of Ballerina Raven Wilkinson by Leda Schubert and illustrated by Theodore Taylor III, tells the story of Raven Wilkinson, the first African American ballerina with the Ballet Russe de Monte-Carlo. This children's book includes a forward by Misty Copeland.

Dreaming with God, by former dancer and Christian author Sarah Beth Marr, is a faith-based resource for dancers looking to balance their spiritual life with the ambition and hard work that a dance career requires.

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