Unsurprisingly, all of the dancers and former dancers in the Pointe office love to read (and write!), so we celebrate #ReadABook Day every day. We've amassed quite a list of favorite ballet-related books, ranging from gorgeous photography books to memoirs and fiction. I compared notes with Pointe research editor Hannah Foster, to come up with an extensive list for outside the studio. Tweet us @pointe_magazine and tell us about your favorite ballet books!

Art Books:

The Art of Movement by Deborah Ory and Ken Browar, published by Black Dog & Leventhal

  • Misty Copeland: Power and Grace, by Richard Corman and Cindy Bradley. Copeland jumps off the glossy pages in striking black and white photography. The book includes her own quotes championing hope and strength in the face of adversity. —Hannah Foster
  • Ballet: Photographs of the New York City Ballet, by Henry Leutwyler and Peter Martins. The Swiss photographer’s photos go beyond capturing gorgeous poses. Rendered in rich color, the power of a leg, the swirl of a skirt—the lushness of NYCB dancers’ movement is on display. —HF
  • Matthew Brookes: Les Danseurs, by Matthew Brookes and Marie-Agnès Gillot. Matthew Brookes’ photos show the stunning strength and grace of the Paris Opéra Ballet men—displayed through intimate close ups and remarkably captured movement. —HF
  • Balancing Acts, by Lucy Gray. Told through intimate photos and inspiring personal accounts, this book follows three former San Francisco Ballet principals as they juggle the roles of ballerina and motherhood. —HF
  • The Art of Movement, by NYC Dance Project's Deborah Ory and Ken Brower. This stunning book features international dance stars floating in couture gowns and intricate costumes, all set against NYC Dance Project's signature marbled grey backdrop. (You can pre-order The Art of Movement on the NYC Dance Project website. It will be available October 25.) —Nicole Loeffler-Gladstone

Memoir and Biography:

  • I Was a Dancer, by Jacques d’Amboise. As Balanchine’s protégé, d’Amboise certainly has a compelling story. He begins by recounting his childhood in New York City and training that the School of American Ballet. We hear about his experiences dancing with Balanchine’s famous muses, as well as the life and death of Balanchine himself. —HF
  • Life in Motion, by Misty Copeland. Copeland's well-known story is chronicled in her memoir, offering insight into her triumphant rise at American Ballet Theatre. —NLG
  • Like a Bomb Going Off: Leonid Yakobson and Ballet as Resistance in Soviet Russia, by Janice Ross. What would Balanchine’s life have been like if he had stayed in his home country? Through the historical account of his contemporary, Leonid Yakobson, we may glean some idea. The Soviet choreographer is little known in the West, but his works endure. —HF
  • Alla Osipenko, by Joel Lobenthal. Soviet ballerina Alla Osipenko challenged the notion that dancers should be seen, not heard, by speaking out against her government’s oppressive status quo. However, this biography reveals that those who rebelled in Soviet Russia, even revered ballerinas, paid a price. —HF
  • Wilde Times: Patricia Wilde, George Balanchine and the Rise of New York City Ballet, by Joel Lobenthal. This book brings the early days of NYCB vividly to life by chronicling the foundation of the company and it's luminaries: Pioneering ballerinas like Wilde and Tanaquil Le Clercq. These dancers originated the roles that give NYCB much of its personality.NLG
  • Dancing on My Grave, by Gelsey Kirkland. This classic, by the former American Ballet Theatre star, chronicles Kirkland's rise to fame and her struggles with eating disorders, drug use and inter-company relationships—as well as her legendary partnership with Mikhail Baryshnikov. —NLG

  • Taking Flight: From War Orphan to Star Ballerina, by Michaela DePrince. The First Position star has begun to make a name for herself at Dutch National Ballet. Read about her early life and how she became a dancer against all odds. —NLG

History

Apollo's Angels by Jennifer Homans, published by Random House

  • Apollo’s Angels by Jennifer Homans. Don’t be deterred by this book's length, because on its pages is a wonderfully rich  history of all things ballet.  Covering dance from the age of Catherine de Medici and Henri II in 1533 to the innovations of Balanchine in mid 20th-century New York, plus everything in between, no aspect of ballet history is left untouched. Homans offers spectacular insights into the nature of ballet, and what it means to be a dancer. —HF
  • The Ballet Lover’s Companion, by Zoë Anderson. Beginning with the Romantic period and ending with works of modern day masters like Wheeldon and McGregor, Anderson catalogues 140 ballets, offering insightful information about their choreographers, premieres, seminal performances and more. —HF
  • Dance to the Piper, by Agnes de Mille with a new introduction by Joan Acocella. Agnes de Mille—choreographer of quintessentially American ballets like Rodeo and Fall River Legend—originally published her memoir in 1951. The book gives a fascinating account of her work and life during the boom of Broadway and ballet. With a new introduction by Joan Acocella, it’s worth a revisit. —HF
  • When Ballet Became French, by Ilyana Karthas. In the mid-19th century, ballet’s epicenter moved from Paris to St. Petersburg. In this fascinating book, Karthas explores how France reclaimed ballet in the early 20th century—the turbulent pre-/post-war years between 1909 and 1939—using the period’s own ballet writing and comprehensive analyses of French culture and national identity. —HF

Fiction

  • Bunheads, by Sophie Flack. This novel follows a young corps member dancing in a company that's a thinly-veiled version of NYCB, and who thinks she knows what she wants—until she meets a college student who questions why ballet has to take up her entire life. —NLG
  • The Cranes Dance, by Meg Howrey. This novel offers a little bit of Black Swan-esque intrigue, in the form of an unstable sister, but makes it feel real by shining a light on the difficulties of sibling rivalry, mental illness and the quest to excel. —NLG

Find even more book recommendations here, here and here! And if you need more reasons to read, studies have shown that reading has benefits that extend to the stage.

For more news on all things ballet, don’t miss a single issue.

 

How dancers read. Photo by Jordan Matter, via dancersamongus.com

As a dancer, you're used to thinking kinetically, physically, actively. Your language is movement. But curling up with a good book after a long day of rehearsal may be just what you need to add balance to your in-motion lifestyle. Reading has more dancer-friendly benefits than you may realize.

Relieves stress. A study from the University of Sussex found that reading was the most effective stress reducer out of all those tested, beating out standbys like listening to music, drinking a cup of tea and going for a walk. Getting lost in the world of a book is believed to help ease tension in the muscles and heart.

Improves sleep. The National Sleep Foundation suggests spending the hour before bed winding down with a calming activity—like reading—to help you relax and transition into sleep mode. (Skip the e-readers at night, though. The type of light that emanates from their screens may make it harder to fall asleep.)

Expands your mind. Research shows that reading fiction may make people more empathetic. That broader perspective could come in handy the next time you're interpreting a difficult role or working with a demanding director or partner.

Looking for some great dance-related reads? Check out our list of 2015's best ballet books.

 

For more news on all things ballet, don't miss a single issue.

 

Photo by Jordan Matter of Dancers Among Us.

If you’re strapped for last-minute gift ideas for the bunhead book-nerd in your life, or if you are one yourself (guilty!), take a look at some of the new ballet books published this year.

For the Photography Lover:

  • Misty Copeland: Power and Grace, by Richard Corman and Cindy Bradley. Copeland jumps off the glossy pages in striking black and white photography. The book includes her own quotes championing hope and strength in the face of adversity.
  • Ballet: Photographs of the New York City Ballet, by Henry Leutwyler and Peter Martins. The Swiss photographer’s photos go beyond capturing gorgeous poses. Rendered in rich color, the power of a leg, the swirl of a skirt—the lushness of NYCB dancers’ movement is on display.
  • Matthew Brookes: Les Danseurs, by Matthew Brookes and Marie-Agnès Gillot. Matthew Brookes’ photos show the stunning strength and grace of the Paris Opéra Ballet—displayed through intimate close ups and remarkably captured movement.
  • Roberto Bolle: Voyage Into Beauty, by Roberto Bolle, Luciano Romano and Fabrizio Ferri. The eminent Roberto Bolle appears as a powerful athlete and a vulnerable artist, framed by the splendid backdrop of Italy, his home.
  • Carlos Acosta at The Royal Ballet, by The Royal Ballet. Set for release in the U.S. in spring 2016, this book chronicles the virtuosic star’s career at The Royal in honor of his farewell season. (You can pre-order on Amazon!)
  • Balancing Acts, by Lucy Gray. Told through intimate photos and inspiring personal accounts, this book follows three former San Francisco Ballet principals as they juggle the roles of ballerina and motherhood.

For the History Buff:

  • The Ballet Lover’s Companion, by Zoë Anderson. Beginning with the Romantic period and ending with works of modern day masters like Wheeldon and McGregor, Anderson catalogues 140 ballets, offering insightful information about their choreographers, premieres, seminal performances and more.
  • Dance to the Piper, by Agnes de Mille with a new introduction by Joan Acocella. Agnes de Mille—choreographer of quintessentially American ballets like Rodeo and Fall River Legend—originally published her memoir in 1951. The book gives a fascinating account of her work and life during the boom of Broadway and ballet. With a new introduction by Joan Acocella, it’s worth a revisit.
  • When Ballet Became French, by Ilyana Karthas. In the mid-19th century, ballet’s epicenter moved from Paris to St. Petersburg. In this fascinating book, Karthas explores how France reclaimed ballet in the early 20th century—the turbulent pre-/post-war years between 1909 and 1939—using the period’s own ballet writing and comprehensive analyses of French culture and national identity.

For Health and Wellness:

  • TuTu Thin: A Guide to Dancing Without an Eating Disorder, by Dawn Smith-Theodore. Written by an eating disorder expert and former dancer, this book is a must-read for any young ballerina, whether she’s grappling with body-image issues or not. Smith-Theodore addresses eating disorders and how to prevent them with solid, sound expertise.

For the Story Lover:

  • Unlovely, by Celeste Conway. In this novel’s romantic seaside setting, a young dancer begins preparing for the role of Giselle, but the glow of summer love between her and the boy she falls for slowly gives way to darkness and unknown horrors.
  • Raising the Barre: Big Dreams, False Starts, and My Midlife Quest to Dance The Nutcracker, by Lauren Kessler. This is the true tale of one woman’s love for dance as it’s lost and found: Kessler’s account of how her childhood dream was crushed and how she reclaims it through a quest to perform The Nutcracker once more.

For the Russophile:

  • Like a Bomb Going Off: Leonid Yakobson and Ballet as Resistance in Soviet Russia, by Janice Ross. What would Balanchine’s life have been like if he had stayed in his home country? Through the historical account of his contemporary, Leonid Yakobson, we may glean some idea. The Soviet choreographer is little known in the West, but his works endure; Boston Ballet will perform his Pas de Quatre in March 2016.
  • Alla Osipenko, by Joel Lobenthal. Soviet ballerina Alla Osipenko challenged the notion that dancers should be seen, not heard, by speaking out against her government’s oppressive status quo. However, this biography reveals that those who rebelled in Soviet Russia, even revered ballerinas, paid a price.
  • Olga Pavlova: A Ballerina For Our Time, by Karen McDonough. This biography goes inside the prestigious—and highly competitive—Bolshoi Ballet Academy, following Pavlova’s rise from school to stardom.

For the Deep Thinker:

  • The Art of Grace: On Moving Well Through Life, by Sarah L. Kaufman. Written by the dance critic of the Washington Post, this meditation on grace will get you thinking. Through dancers and other performers, Kaufman explores the concept of grace, onstage and off.

 

But why pigeonhole ourselves? History buff, Russophile…in 2016, I’ll be working my way through them all.

 

For more news on all things ballet, don’t miss a single issue.

Misty Copeland's eagerly anticipated memoir, Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina (Touchstone/Simon & Schuster), comes out this March. In these excerpts, the American Ballet Theatre soloist describes her struggles with her body, learning how to ask for what she wants and her triumphant debut in Alexei Ratmansky's The Firebird.


When my second year in American Ballet Theatre's corps began, I was more than ready to return to the stage. But my body had completely changed. It was a woman's body, and it felt unfamiliar. I soon realized that ABT, too, was searching for the little girl that I had been.

Finally, the ABT staff called me in to tell me that I needed to lose weight, though those were not the words they used. Instead, the more polite word, ubiquitous in ballet, was lengthening.

“You need to lengthen, Misty," a staffer said. “Just a little, so that you don't lose your classical line."

I was five feet two and just over a hundred pounds. They suggested a nutritionist, but the company would not pay for it. I was trying to survive on a corps member's salary—$679 a week—in New York, the most expensive of cities.

Who do they think they're talking to? I would mumble to myself after a long, stressful day. I have so much talent. Why do I have to be stick thin?

But deep down, I knew that my body just wasn't where it needed to be to perform the classical roles I so loved, or to be in a company as prestigious as ABT. That realization ached.

Gradually, I began to find my balance. It was far from instantaneous. In fact, I think it took me roughly five years truly to understand my body. I learned that my diet was probably 60 to 70 percent of what was causing me to gain more weight than I wanted. So I set about changing my eating habits.

I learned to take care of my body, my instrument, to accept it while ensuring that it's in the best shape for me to give my all in every performance. And ABT, seeing how hard I had worked, how well I was performing, eventually stopped asking me to lengthen. They came to see that my curves are part of who I am as a dancer, not something I need to lose to become one.

*****

By 2007, I had been in ABT's corps for six years. Despite my kinship with the black dancers who occasionally passed through ABT, and some wonderful mentors, I continued to feel frustrated and mostly alone.

The bitter truth is I felt that I wasn't being fully accepted because I was black, that artistic director Kevin McKenzie and other leaders of the company just didn't see me starring in more classical roles, despite my elegant line and flow.

I began to contemplate leaving.

It was Olu, my first boyfriend, who helped me realize that I did not need to run away from ABT. He truly believed that I had the talent to attain what I wanted, to become a soloist and principal right where I was. But I had to learn to ask for it.

I was very nervous about speaking up for myself. I didn't want to displease others, to be rejected or misunderstood.

But Olu told me that I had to approach things in a different way, that I couldn't just feel sorry for myself: I had to fight. There's an old adage in the black community that we have to be 10 times better just to get as much. I took that to heart. I had to be undeniably excellent. But I also had to let ABT know what I was after.

Slowly, the fog that dampened my confidence began to lift. I made an appointment to talk to Kevin.

“I know contemporary dance is a strength of mine because a lot of ballerinas don't move like I do," I told him. “But I was trained as a classical dancer, and that's what I really want to do."

“I'm glad to hear that," Kevin said. “You have the talent to do both."

That was it.

Soon after, there was a new beginning. Kevin decided, at last, to make me a soloist.


I would be the first black soloist with ABT in 20 years. It was an historic breakthrough. I recognized then and now that Kevin had been behind me from the start, pushing me to grow, to mature, to excel. I had waited six long years, and now I was ready, not just to show the world that I was a gifted dancer but that I was a true artist as well.

*****

Kevin told me himself that I'd be learning the lead in Alexei Ratmansky's new production of The Firebird. I assumed I would be an understudy, but I was still thrilled to be studying Alexei's new choreography.

I dove into rehearsals, determined that if ever I needed to fill in for the lead, I would be ready. One day after a busy morning of choreographing and improvising, we finally got a five-minute break, and I plopped down on the floor, exhausted, and picked up my phone. I started browsing idly through Twitter as I stretched out my tired legs.

And that's how I found out.

There was a link to an ABT press release about the official casting for The Firebird. Natalia Osipova, ABT's guest principal dancer, would be in the first cast.

And I—Misty Copeland—would be the Firebird in the second.

The day of our New York debut of The Firebird, the company had a dress rehearsal. Afterward, I walked out the front doors of the Metropolitan Opera House.

I turned around, and looked up.

It was me, in full blazing color. There was my face, head thrown back in joy, and my body, gleefully leaping into the air on a 24-foot advertisement, waving from the front of the Metropolitan Opera. Misty Copeland. The Firebird. My eyes filled with tears. In all my years of living in New York City, I had never seen a black woman on the façade of the Met.


Copyright © 2014 by Misty Copeland. From the forthcoming book LIFE IN MOTION: An Unlikely Ballerina by Misty Copeland to be published by Touchstone, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. Printed by permission.


Roberto Bolle: An Athlete in Tights

High-profile photographer Bruce Weber turns his camera on ballet stud Roberto Bolle in this new book of images. The collection showcases the Italian-born dancer’s stunning facility and captivating presence. Bolle, who has performed with The Royal Ballet, La Scala Ballet and Stuttgart Ballet, returns to American Ballet Theatre this season as a principal. —Kristin Lewis

The Sugarless Plum: A Ballerina’s Triumph Over Diabetes

 
Former NYCB dancer Zippora Karz tells her inspirational story—and gives us an interesting peek at the City Ballet of the ’80s and ’90s.

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