The Year in Ballet Books: 9 New Reads for Dance Fans Young and Old

December 17, 2020

Whether you’re looking for a last-minute gift idea or want to add to your own library, now is a good time to think about ballet books. Earlier this year we featured New York City Ballet principal Tiler Peck’s new children’s book, Katarina Ballerina, and the re-release of Jessica Flynn’s YA novel Dancing in Time. Here are nine more dance books that came out this year, spanning everything from pointe training to dance history to children’s stories written by or featuring our favorite stars.

Pointe Work: 10 Reasons Why and When

Getting your first pair of pointe shoes is an important rite of passage, but there’s so much to consider. Pointe Work: 10 Reasons Why and When is a comprehensive guidebook for students, parents and teachers about this very special time in a dancer’s training. Author Dawn C. Crouch addresses the proper signs of pointe readiness and what students should expect their first year on pointe, as well as the hard work, time commitment and training required to successfully dance in these specialized shoes. She also includes a section for adult beginners. ($6.99)


Misty Copeland
, American Ballet Theatre’s first Black female principal, has spent much of her career finding ways to give back to the younger generations, and already has two books under her belt. In September, Copeland published Bunheads, the first in a series of children’s books inspired by her early experiences in ballet. The book, beautifully illustrated by Setor FIadzigbey, follows a young Misty as she starts ballet lessons and discovers her love of dance. Even though she’s new to ballet and not sure that she can pull off the role, she auditions for the part of Swanilda in her school’s production of Coppélia. But through hard work and the help and support of her new friends, she is able to overcome her fears. Recommended for children ages 5 to 8. (Penguin Random House, $17.99)

Courtesy Penguin Random House

Final Bow for Yellowface: Dancing Between Intention and Impact

In 2018, Phil Chan co-founded Final Bow for Yellowface with New York City Ballet soloist Georgina Pazcoguin to help change outdated representations of Asians in ballet. Since then, he has become a go-to consultant for ballet companies as they grapple with problematic roles and story lines in classics like The Nutcracker and La Bayadère. His book Final Bow for Yellowface: Dancing Between Intention and Impact dives into issues of racial representation onstage, why they are important to address, and how we can have meaningful conversations about them. He chronicles his own experience as an Asian American, as well as his journey from helping NYCB make adjustments to its Nutcracker Tea variation to consulting Ballet West on their 2019 reconstruction of Balanchine’s Le Chant du Rossignol. Chan offers advice for arts organizations on how to have these discussions about race with understanding and open ears, as well as outlining what ballet must do to stay relevant as audiences grow more diverse. (Yellow Peril Press, $24.99 paperback, $9.99 ebook)


Famed fashion photographer Arthur Elgort has long had a passion for ballet, capturing behind-the-scenes moments of dancers young and old for decades. Ballet spans Elgort’s photographic career, offering 114 previously unpublished images. Vintage black-and-white photos of New York City Ballet rehearsals and students at Russia’s esteemed Vaganova Ballet Academy mix with candid portraits, featuring dance luminaries like Mikhail Baryshnikov, George Balanchine, Uliana Lopatkina and many more. (Steidl, $50.00)

Courtesy Steidl

Welcome to Ballet School

New York City Ballet principal Ashley Bouder debuted her first children’s book in September. Welcome to Ballet School, featuring Illustrations by Julie Bereciartu, is an instructional and inclusive picture book starring Violet (based on Bouder’s own daughter) and her group of friends. Together they practice ballet’s five positions and visit a costume room. They also learn how to prepare for ballet class and—a very important lesson—what to do if they fall. At the end, the dancers put on their very own show of Sleeping Beauty. Recommended for ages 3 to 5. (Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, $19.99)

Vertebral Consciousness: Fearlessly Moving Your Spine—Dance

founder Conna-Lee Weinberg wants dancers to think differently about the spine and what it is capable of. Weinberg—a psychophysical educator whose clients include Olympic athletes, yoga instructors and professionals dancers—argues that while we are often taught that the spine lends to movement, we actually have the ability to self-direct and initiate movement from each individual vertebrae, resulting in better alignment and healthier backs. But most of us aren’t able to connect our brains to our vertebrae in the same way we can our fingers or toes. Vertebral Consciousness: Fearlessly Moving Your Spine—Dance offers an in-depth guide on how to develop a better brain–body connection, with detailed anatomical breakdowns of the vertebral bones and muscles, visualization techniques, exercises, and more. The end of the book delves into common Pilates, yoga and ballet exercises to help dancers put what they’ve learned into practice. ($34.98)

Courtesy Conna-Lee Weinberg

The Legat Legacy

The Legat Legacy
, edited by Mindy Aloff, is a collection of two books centered around legendary Russian ballet master Nikolas Legat (1869–1937), whose pupils included Vaslav Nijinsky, Anna Pavlova, and Dame Margot Fonteyn (just to name a few!). The first book, Ballet Russe: Memoirs of Nikolas Legat, is his first-hand account of his time as a principal dancer with the Imperial Russian Ballet before fleeing to Europe to escape the Russian Civil War. The second book, Heritage of a Ballet Master: Nikolas Legat, by John Gregory, offers a window into his teaching methods. In addition to four classes he wrote down for his pupil André Eglevsky, the book includes classes remembered by other dancers, as well as archival photos, Legat’s famous cartoon drawings, and tributes from former students like Alicia Markova and Léonide Massine. (University Press of Florida, $29.95)

Boys Dance!

Featuring lively illustrations by Luciano Lozano, this encouraging, rhyming picture book, written by John Robert Allman, follows a diverse group of young danseurs and shows the strength, skills and hard work that ballet requires. Created in partnership with ABT, and with input from the company’s male dancers, Boys Dance! aims to take the stigma out of boys doing ballet. An afterword features photos and interviews with some of ABT’s male stars. Recommended for ages 3 to 7. (Doubleday Books for Young Readers, $17.99 hardcover, $10.99 ebook)

Courtesy Doubleday Books

B Is for Ballet: A Dance Alphabet

John Robert Allman’s B Is for Ballet, published in partnership with ABT, is a rhyming A-to-Z picture book. With lush illustrations by Rachael Dean, B is for Ballet teaches little readers about ballet vocabulary and positions, famous dancers and choreographers, and moments in ballet history while following the alphabet. A glossary of terms, biographies and dance history completes the book. Recommended for children ages 3 to 7. (Doubleday Books for Young Readers, $18.99 hardcover, $11.99 ebook)