Rest Your Feet, Exercise Your Mind

For everyone getting ready to head off to summer intensives, here's another thing to add to your packing list: some good books! Reading can be a great way to give your exhausted body a much-needed rest. Books in print, e-reader editions, books online, whatever floats your boat, check out some of the great works out there about dance. 

The Collaborative Habit: Life Lessons for Working Together by Twyla Tharp
Throughout Tharp's extensive career, she's worked with some of the most prominent dancers, companies, musicians and designers in the world, and it's from these experiences that she draws the material for her book about collaboration. Designed as a companion to her earlier book, The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life (a must-read about the process of creating dance), The Collaborative Habit covers the ins and outs of working together, from the characteristics of good collaborations, to warning signs that a collaboration may be dysfunctional, to different types of collaborations (between friends, with an institution, virtual, to name a few). Though most of the anecdotes in the book are dance-related, Tharp stresses the importance of collaboration in all walks of life. 

Apollo's Angels by Jennifer Homans
Be warned: This book is long. Don't be deterred by it's length, though, 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. 

Technical Manual and Dictionary of Classical Ballet by Gail Grant
Originally written in 1967, there have been numerous updated editions published, most recently in 2009. This book covers nearly every ballet step there is, with special attention paid to what each movement  is called in the French, Cecchetti and Vaganova methods. Another plus? It includes a pronunciation guide for some of those tough to sound out terms. A lightweight paperback, this guide is the perfect size to throw in your bag as a quick reference for any questions you may have throughout the day.

Murder in the Fifth Position by Edgar Box
Originally written and published in the 1950s by Edgar Box, this whodunnit ballet mystery was re-released this year under the name of the true author— critically-acclaimed Gore Vidal. The story follows a PR man turned detective trying to solve the murder mystery of a prominent New York City ballerina who fell to her death onstage—landing in a perfect fifth position. A good one for down time before bed or between rehearsals!

Titles to look for in the next few months...
Dance Medicine: Head to Toe: A Dancer's Guide to Health by Judith R. Peterson, MD
This book offers a complete look at the common injuries and illnesses that affect dancers, written by the former attending physician of the Pennsylvania Ballet. Scheduled for release in late June.  

Bunheads by Sophie Flack
A novel about a dancer's search for identity and fulfillment in a prestigious NYC ballet company, written by former NYCB dancer Sophie Flack. Scheduled for release in October.