The Magic of Ballet

A four-hundred-year-old Italian court dance has evolved into the ballets we watch and love today.

Beyond the glittering performances are some amazing stories of hard work and grit from people who love ballet and who will push the boundaries of an art form.

Get inspired with these recently-published ballet books available at Dunedin Public Libraries.

Ballet: The Definitive Illustrated Story. Viviana Durant
Spanning centuries and continents, this book is a generously-illustrated history of ballet from the times of Catherine de Medici through to the 21st century. Rich with illustrations, the book dances its way through the history of ballet by looking closely at the most famous and beautiful ballets and the people who made them.

A Body of Work. David Hallberg
The New Yorker described David Hallberg as “the most exciting male dancer in the western world.” This is the story of his rise to fame, agonizing retreat from ballet due to injury, and his astonishing recovery. Intimate and readable, this bio is for anyone interested in reading about creativity, determination and a love of dance.

Ballerina Body. Misty Copeland
This is Misty Copeland’s first healthy lifestyle and motivation book. Misty Copeland has been shattering barriers in the ballet world for some years now. An immensely talented ballerina, she became the first African American woman to be promoted to principal dancer in the American Ballet Theatre's 75-year history. This book is laden with exercises and health tips, as well as personal anecdotes on Copeland’s own struggles as a woman within the driven environment of a ballet company.

Celestial Bodies: How to Look at Ballet. Laura Jacobs
This small book is an absolute gem. I paused after each chapter to digest the flow of information. Dance critic Laura Jacobs gives us insights into the why’s and wherefores of the ballet as it is today. She does this in such a charming and lively manner that the reader is given a uniquely accessible introduction to the world of classical dance.

Mao’s Last Dancer. Li Cunxin
You may have seen the movie, but I think the book is better. In a twist of fate worthy of a fairy-tale, this personal memoir follows Li Cunxin’s extraordinary journey from a desperately poor village in rural China to the Beijing Dance Academy. Chosen to serve in Mao's cultural revolution, Li Cunxin excelled at ballet and eventually defected to the United States were his talent shot him to stardom. His wonderful story is available in an adult book, a young readers’ version and a picture book too.