Tuck Up With a Good Book!

Tuck Up With a Good Book!

As summer seems to have come to an abrupt ending here in our hometown of Otautahi, Christchurch,  we thought this would be a good time to have a look at some ballet themed books ready for those long winter evenings ahead.

Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild

Yes, it’s a children’s book, and an old one at that. Noel Streatfeild was born on Christmas Eve in 1895. Ballet Shoes was published in 1936 her first of many children’s books and although it’s now almost 90 years old it’s still worth a read, preferably snuggled up by the fire with a nice cup of tea and a piece of cake.

Set in London in the 1930’s the themes of family, friendship, hard work and perseverance remain universal and the background of theatre and dance still make for a heart-warming read, even for big girls. Sadly Ballet Shoes is now out of print, but if like us you had it on your childhood bookshelf maybe you still have a copy lurking in the loft. Otherwise it can still be found in some libraries, on kindle and other e-readers and audiobooks.

Apollos Angels: A History of Ballet by Jennifer Homans

At the other end of the scale to Ballet Shoes we have Apollo's Angels: A History of Ballet by former professional ballerina, Jennifer Homans which is a comprehensive and fascinating account of the evolution of ballet from its origins in the courts of Renaissance Italy to its modern-day form.

Homans traces the development of ballet through its various stages and styles, detailing the contributions of key figures such as Jean-Georges Noverre, Marius Petipa, and George Balanchine. She explores the cultural, social, and political contexts in which ballet emerged and evolved, showing how it reflected and influenced the societies in which it thrived.

Homans also delves into the technical and artistic aspects of ballet, discussing the roles of dancers, choreographers, composers, and designers in shaping the art form. She examines the ways in which ballet has been influenced by other forms of dance and art, such as modern dance and the visual arts.

Throughout the book, Homans emphasizes the importance of ballet as a form of cultural expression and identity, and as a means of communication between artists and audiences. She also addresses some of the controversies and challenges facing ballet today, such as issues of gender and diversity.

Apollo's Angels is a well-researched and engaging book that will appeal to anyone interested in dance, art, or cultural history. It provides a rich and nuanced understanding of ballet as a complex and evolving art form, and as a reflection of the societies in which it has flourished.

Jennifer Homans has also written Mr B, an insightful biography of the legendary George Balanchine, one of the most influential choreographers of the 20th century. Homans, provides a comprehensive and nuanced look into Balanchine's life and work, tracing his journey from his early years in Imperial Russia to his eventual rise to fame as the co-founder of the New York City Ballet. It is a must-read for anyone interested in ballet, dance history, or the arts more broadly.


There are many, many ballet biographies to choose from with more being published all the time. The three we've chosen here reflect various aspects of the intense dancers commitment to their art.

A Body of Work by David Hallberg – the first American to join the Bolshoi as a Principal and currently the Artistic Director of the Australian Ballet. David’s is a stellar career that rides the highs and lows of injury and ego and the loneliness of success.

Dancing on My Grave by Gelsey Kirkland- A protege of Balanchine and later the on-and-offstage partner of Mikhail Baryshnikov. This is a ballet life full of melodrama and Gelsey is not shy about talking about the dark side.

Life in Motion by Misty Copeland - The first African American female soloist in the history of the prestigious American Ballet Theatre. Copeland is frank about the racism and sizeism she experienced in an environment that still favours pale skin and narrow hips.

Whilst ballet is a popular subject for books for young readers, there are surprisingly few for adults.

One such is Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead, a beautifully written novel that explores the complex world of ballet and the sacrifices that come with pursuing one's passion. The story revolves around Joan, a former ballerina who left behind her dancing career and the love of her life, a celebrated dancer named Arslan Rusakov, to start a family.

The novel is told through a series of flashbacks and alternating perspectives, allowing the reader to piece together Joan's complicated past and the events that led to her present-day life. Shipstead's writing is descriptive and evocative, painting a vivid picture of the world of ballet and the physical and emotional demands placed on its performers.

Last but definitely not least is Raising the Barre by Lauren Kessler which is a book written for all of us late starter adult dancers! Lauren fell in love with ballet the first time she saw The Nutcracker, and from that day, at age five, she dreamed of becoming a ballerina. But when she was twelve, her very famous ballet instructor crushed those dreams-along with her youthful self-assurance and she stepped away from the barre.

Four decades later Lauren embarks on a “Transcontinental Nutcracker Binge Tour,” where attending a string of performances in Chicago, New York, Boston, and San Francisco reignites her love affair with the ballet and fuels her girlhood dream. A funny, heartfelt examination of middle age and the desire to dance.

Perhaps there is something there to tempt you? 

We have planned more posts about books, movies other ballet associated arts so keep on following us, like us on our socials and most importantly - keep on dancing xoxo



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