Bookshelf: 3 quick read contemporary ballet biographies

If you’re looking for gift ideas for dance lovers, these ballet biographies are a great choice. Inspiring, easy reads about the dance journeys of three living ballet dancers: Carlos Acosta, Misty Copeland and Michaela DePrince. 

Photo of 3 ballet biography novels

Carlos Acosta: No way home
Harper Perennial

Now Director of Birmingham Royal Ballet, Carlos Acosta is the only dancer of these three author-dancers that I’ve seen perform live. That was during his 17 years with The Royal Ballet. A phenomenal danseur who is now making his mark as a choreographer. 

No way home follows Acosta’s dance journey from his childhood dance lessons in Cuba through his international dance career to his choreographic premiere with Tocororo: A Cuban Tale in London in 2002. It’s a story as much about family as it is about dance. 

Sometimes you read biographies and your heroes fall from grace. What I loved about this one is that even though it was gritty rather than glamorous, it grew my respect for Acosta. 

Misty Copeland: Life in motion
Sphere, Little Brown

Misty Copeland is a principal with American Ballet Theatre (ABT). In addition to this biography and various dance books for adult readers, she’s also published ballet storybooks for young readers and has plenty of film and television credits. She’s known as a role model and spokesperson as well as a dancer. Her Black ballerinas; my journey to our legacy is on my book wish list.

Copeland’s biography charts her dance journey from young prodigy through dancing with superstar Prince to ABT’s first black principal ballerina. It’s not just a story about dancing but also about the politics of the dance world and the ballerina body. 

I’ve always been far more knowledgeable about British ballet history than American ballet history. So I learnt loads reading this biography. Definitely a thought-provoking read.

Michaela and Elaine DePrince: Hope in a ballet shoe
Faber & Faber

Today a soloist with Boston Ballet, Michaela DePrince was born in Sierra Leone. Her biography recounts how a ballerina photograph on a magazine cover captured her imagination before she even knew what ballet was. 

A war orphan whose parents died during the civil war in Sierra Leone, DePrince went from orphanage to refugee camp before being adopted and flown to the United States as a four-year-old. 

Her story is remarkably poignant. If you’re looking for a book gift to inspire a young reader, this one is my recommendation.

I grew up reading ballet books, both fictional and biographical stories of dancers. So curling up with these three books was a great staycation weekend escape for me.

Hope you enjoy these if you get to read them. Leave a comment if you’ve read them or have other recommendations. I’ve got a few more ballet biographies on my shelf that I’ve not yet finished reading. They’re a bit heavier (literally and stylistically) than these three so it might be a little while before I blog those.

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