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.

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Alicia Alonso with Igor Youskevitch. Sedge Leblang, Courtesy Dance Magazine Archives.

Her Dying Swan was as fragile as her Juliet was rebellious; her Odile, scheming, her Swanilda, insouciant. Her Belle was joyous, and her Carmen, both brooding and full-blooded. But there was one role in particular that prompted dance critic Arnold Haskell to ask, "How do you interpret Giselle when you are Giselle?"

At eight, Alicia Alonso took her first ballet class on a stage in her native Cuba, wearing street clothes. Fifteen years later, put in for an ailing Alicia Markova in a performance of Giselle at New York's Metropolitan Opera House, she staked her claim to that title role.

Alonso received recognition throughout the world for her flawless technique and her ability to become one with the characters she danced, even after she became nearly blind. After a career in New York, she and her then husband Fernando Alonso established the Cuban National Ballet and the Cuban National Ballet School, both of which grew into major international dance powerhouses and beloved institutions in their home country. On October 17, the company announced that, after leading the company for a remarkable 71 years, Alonso died from cardiovascular disease at the age of 98.

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Sponsored by BLOCH
Courtesy BLOCH

Today's ballet dancer needs a lot from a pointe shoe. "What I did 20 years ago is not what these dancers are doing now," says New York City Ballet shoe manager Linnette Roe. "They are expected to go harder, longer days. They are expected to go from sneakers, to pointe shoes, to character shoes, to barefoot and back to pointe shoes all in a day."

The team at BLOCH developed their line of Stretch Pointe shoes to address dancer's most common complaints about the fit and performance of their pointe shoes. "It's a scientific take on the pointe shoe," says Roe. Dancers are taking notice and Stretch Pointe shoes are now worn by stars like American Ballet Theatre principal Isabella Boylston, who stars in BLOCH's latest campaign for the shoes.

We dug into the details of Stretch Pointe's most game-changing features:

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Sir Anthony Dowell dedicated four decades for his life to The Royal Ballet, first as a principal dancer, and then as the company's artistic director. His monumental career is a testament to his love for the art form. That love can also be seen in this solo from a 1980 performance of Dutch choreographer Hans van Manen's Four Schumann Pieces, created for the company five years earlier. Van Manen's choreography slips in and out of pedestrian and balletic vocabulary. Dowell demonstrates his virtuosity by ascending into sublime classical shapes without an intimation of effort.

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During one of Charlotte Nash's first few weeks with Houston Ballet II, she was thrown into a run-through of Balanchine's Theme and Variations. "I had never really understudied before and I didn't know what I was doing," she says. "I fell right away and was quickly replaced." For Nash, now a dancer with Festival Ballet Providence, the episode was a tough lesson. "I was mortified, but then I said to myself, 'Okay, I need to figure out how to learn things more quickly.'"

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