Inspirational books from the lives of ballet dancers

Memoirs and stories of people perfecting the performance art that originated in the Italian Renaissance courts of the 15th century and made moving paintings out of human forms.
artists ballerinas ballet memoirs art-forms
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Holding on to the Air

by Suzanne Farrell,Toni Bentley

About the book:  The life and accomplishments of one of America's most famous ballerinas is highlighted in this monumental portrait of Suzanne Farrell, the celebrated muse to George Balanchine. (Performing Arts)

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Life in Motion

by Misty Copeland

About the book:  When Misty Copeland first placed her hands on the ballet barre at an after-school community centre, no one expected the undersized, underprivileged and anxious thirteen-year-old to become one of America's most groundbreaking dancers. A true prodigy, she was attempting in months roles that take most dancers years to master. But when Misty became caught between the control and comfort she found in the world of ballet and the harsh realities of her own life, she had to choose to embrace both her identity and her dreams, and find the courage to be one of a kind. In this instant New York Times bestseller, Misty Copeland tells the story of her historic journey to become the first African-American principal ballerina at the prestigious American Ballet Theatre. With an insider's passion, Misty opens a window into the life of an artist who lives life centre stage, from behind the scenes at her first classes to her triumphant roles in some of the world's most iconic ballets. Life in Motion is a story of passion, identity and grace for anyone who has dared to dream of a different life.

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Margot Fonteyn

by Margot Fonteyn

About the book:  A complete portrait of the celebrated British ballerina's life traces her childhood in suburban England, relationships with Frederick Ashton and Rudolf Nureyev, achievements with the Sadler's Wells Ballet, and definitive years at the side of Aristotle Onassis and others. 40,000 first printing.

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The Sugarless Plum

by Zippora Karz

About the book:  It started as the perfect story. Zippora Karz was a member of the famed New York City Ballet by the age of eighteen. By twenty she was starring as the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker, dancing roles created by Jerome Robbins, and traveling the world. It was the stuff dreams are made of until, at age twenty-one, Karz became exhausted, dizzy and excessively thirsty. Heavy pancake makeup covered the sores under her arms that would not heal, but she neglected to go to the doctor. When she finally did, she was diagnosed with diabetes, and learned that if she continued to ignore her symptoms, she risked heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, blindness and amputation of her toes, feet and legs. She struggled to get the correct diagnosis and treatment, first thinking she had Type-2 diabetes, when in fact she had Type 1, juvenile diabetes. Once placed on an insulin regimen to regulate her blood sugar, she would inject herself with unsafe doses before going on stage in misguided attempts to obtain peak performance. The potentially fatal result of Karz's self-experimentation became all too real when she nearly lost consciousness. Her weight dropped and she became dangerously ill. Balancing ballet and her blood sugar would be a long and difficult struggle for Karz, but eventually she learned to value her body and work with it, rather than rage at its limitations. In The Sugarless Plum, Karz shares her journey from denial, shame and miseducation about her illness to how she led an active, balanced and satisfying life as an insulin-dependent diabetic and soloist with one of the world's most famous ballet companies. Through her fascinating story, those struggling with diabetes and other serious illnesses can find encouragement and inspiration as well as practical advice on achieving physical and emotional wellness. After sixteen years with the New York City Ballet, Karz retired and took her passion and skills into a whole new arena as a diabetes educator and advocate, where today she inspires people to not just manage their illness, but to thrive and fulfill their passions. The Sugarless Plum takes readers deep into the heart and soul of a young dancer, and is a remarkable testament to determination and perseverance.

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George Balanchine

by Robert Gottlieb

About the book:  The foremost contemporary choreographer in the history of ballet, George Balanchine extended the art form into radical new paths that came to seem inevitable under his direction. He transformed movement and dance in classical and modern ballet, on the Broadway stage, and in the cinema. George Balanchine chronicles the life and achievements of this visionary artist from his early, almost accidental career in Russia, where his lifelong collaboration with Igor Stravinsky was forged, to his extraordinary accomplishments in America. The editor and writer Robert Gottlieb, one of the most knowledgeable dance critics in America, offers a superb and loving portrait of a genius who, though married many times to many ballerinas, remained truest to his greatest love, Terpischore, the Greek Muse of dance.

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Once a Dancer--

by Allegra Kent

About the book:  A memoir of the ballet dancer, tracing her childhood, dance career, and marriage to photographer Bert Stern, includes portraits of dance figures in her life.

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Dancing on My Grave

by Gelsey Kirkland

About the book:  The shattering story of a dream which became a heartbreaking nightmare for one of America's most famous ballerinas, Gelsey Kirkland, who chronicles her brilliant start as a dancer with George Balanchine, her legendary partnership with Mikhail Baryshnikov, her agonizing descent into drugs, and her struggles to rise again. Photographs.

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Dancing for Balanchine

by Merrill Ashley

About the book:  The New York City Ballet ballerina recounts her experiences studying with, working for, and--finally--becoming an inspiration for the foremost choreographer of the century

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