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Good Books about ballet: understanding it

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Several parents I know have been discussing our general lack of knowledge in re ballet...


So I thought it might be helpful to start a list that we've found helpful in aiding us on our "journey" of discovery. Here's my list - not necessarily in order of importance:


Books on ballets:


101 Stories of the Great Ballets by George Balanchine and Francis Mason. This is scene by scene - old and new.


Ballet 101: A Complete Guide to Learning & Loving Ballet by Robert Greskovic - he does not write without a bit of humor, which I have to say I have enjoyed. This book gives a history lesson, an overview of some of the most well known dancers, how to "look" at a ballet and a section devoted to the famous ballets.


The Dancer's Foot Book: A Complete Guide to Footcare & Health for People Who Dance by Dr. Terry L. Spilken which I think is extremely informative.


The Dancer's Book of Health by Dr. L. M. Vincent is also handy - not quite as dry as Spilken's...maybe not quite as technical...but informative and written with a humorous approach as well.


The Pointe Book by Janice Barringer and Sarah Schlesinger - you all probably bought this when your dancer first thought about going en Pointe! smile.gif


Next two books that are geared especially for us parents: Getting Started in Ballet: A Parent's Guide To Dance Education by Anna Paskevska and The Parents Book of Balletby Angela Whitehill and William Noble with a forward by David Howard. These two are similar but of course each has a slightly different style. Whitehill's, in my opinion, is more conversational...maybe that has to do with the author's respective backgrounds?


Advice For Dancers: Emotional Counsel and Practical Strategies by Linda H. Hamilton, PH.D. (She was a former dancer with NYCB during Balanchine's reign and now is a clinical psychologist, an editor and columnist for Dance Magazine. I bought it in Julliard's bookstore, I think...it could be very helpful for older teens and certainly for us worried parents of any aged dancer!


Teaching Classical Balletby John White. I was wandering through the Borders book store in Baltimore this summer, while waiting for our time slot to see the porpoises do their act at the aquarium, when I spotted this book - and bought it. This was the pivotal book for me in that I had been having a nagging suspicion that my dancer needed more and different classes... Although the book is primarily written for teachers of ballet, the dedication states that it is also for "the students who depend upon their teachers' knowledge and expertise." I found this book to be very, very helpful in understanding not just the progression of dance for an aspiring dancer but also for teaching me the content of what they should be learning...I would love to hear from our Ms. Leigh and Major Mel as to their opinion of this book!


Classical Ballet Technique by Gretchen Ward Warren with a forward by Robert Joffrey has already been mentioned in another post as a very valuable book. It is loaded with photos that can really help the uninitiated in ballet and I think it is regarded as a kind of "the Bible" of ballet...the photos show the "correct" way to do various things and "the incorrect" way. It's very detailed - but well worth the money even in paperback!


And my last entry is Dancer's Resource: The Watson-Guptill Guide to Workshops, Conferences, Artists' Colonies, Academic Programs by Mark Jones. This book came out in 1999 but I think it still gives a great deal of accurate information regarding schools, etc., and telephone numbers and overviews...


Just a reminder, many of these books may be available through a library - if you live in a state with a superior library service - if not, you can view them through Amazon.com and if you enter the Amazon site through the banner on Ballet Talk...this site will reap some financial rewards and you'll be helping support "the cause'! cool.gif


[ December 02, 2001: Message edited by: BW ]

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Thanks, BW, that is a great list! Sorry I can't speak to John White's book, as I have not read it. But I'm glad it was helpful for you.

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Alas, I must confess ignorance of the John White book, but I'd welcome any Consumer Reports from anybody else here who's familiar with it!

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I am familiar with John White's book as well as the man as a teacher. He was one of mine (only one year, PB in the 1970's). His book is interesting I would say for parents students and teachers alike. It is well layed out and simple to comprehend. It was a labor of love for him. It is a different type of book in that it explains many of the important points of teaching children such as communication, confidence, the art of giving, about pain, guidance, as well as class structure!It is enormously interesting. You can order it on Amazon.com. Mr. and Mrs. White have trained some very fine dancers who have danced in major companies throughout the US, Canada and Europe. There is vast knowledge and experience behind this book.


However, if one is looking to read about the Vaganova Schooling I must continue to return to the old favorites Vaganova herself, Kostrovitskaya, Bazarova/May and of course Tarasov. By the way, I did get another copy of Tarasov from Amazon the other day, so they do pop up every once in awhile. It was a whopping $60.00 but very well worth it.

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Thanks for your review of John White's book, Vrsfanatic - you gave a much better "Consumer Report"! smile.gif


Very interesting that he was also a teachr of yours, as well.


Now, I will have to go check out those other books you mentioned...thank you.

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  • 2 years later...

Good idea, BW. And all good books (above) IMHO. Here are a few others that we've also reached for often:


For Parents (for their own edification):

- Sandra Noll Hammonds' textbooks - particularly Ballet Basics, which our studio teacher has gotten in the habit of loaning to all beginning adults, or for parents who want to know what their kids are going to be learning. It's a good overview/survey, and what a 1st year adult ballet student can expect to learn in class. Ms. Hammond was a teacher at U. of Hawaii, I believe, and may still be, for all I know.


- Appreciating Dance, a guide to the world's liveliest art, by Harriet Lihs - (both 2nd and 3rd editions) These books are often used by one-semester ballet appreciation/survey classes (often used by the U. of Utah, for example). I've used them to help build handouts/fliers for the studio. (Our studio dedicates a couple weeks each year to teaching history, showing films, building displays, etc., in addition to running barre and center. The director calls them seminar weeks. Had to plug that--Idaho may be the back of beyond, but isn't always backwards!!) Chapters are broken down by dance era (early, religious, classical, tap/jazz/etc, modern, etc.), issues related to dance, dance organizations, and more, and consist of quick overviews, lists (by field) of dance notables, selected reading and viewing lists, study questions, etc. Both editions have a lot of similarities, but are different enough you might want to eventually have both.


For Students:

- Dance Imagery - for technique and performance, by Eric Franklin. My DS likes this book a lot; it's full of ideas about how to use imagery to improve one's dancing, and I mean full! We've given it as a gift to teachers too, because it also has a lot of useful tips for little kids (the "where are your headlights", "rocket-ship", "ironing board" variety). Oh, my husband has also found it enormously helpful; he's a verrry-slow 3rd year ballet student (closer to first year!). Mr. Franklin written several other books too, but this has been the most valuable IMHO.


For Students and Teachers:

- Pas de Deux - a textbook on partnering, by Nikolai Serebrennikov, edited by Marian Horosko. My DS and husband think the world of this book, as does the director of our studio here. It's a very, very, very useful textbook on partnering, first written for the Vaganova Academy. It begins with philosophy, simple exercises, and moves to poses, lifts, strengthening exercises, balance points, etc. A small book, but dense and informative -- well worth getting if your DK is doing PDD.


For DKs, Moms and Dads, and Teachers...and everyone involved in dance, directly or indirectly: I believe it is vital that DKs become highly aware of their bodies and I think they should make an effort to learn more about their bodies and how they work. There are many books about injuries/kinesiology/fitness etc., but I think a few are invaluable. My, and one DS's, favorite two books are:


- Dance Kinesiology, by Sally Fiit, used by many universities. College-age DK's will often end up having to get this book anyway. It is very comprehensive and might seem overwhelming, but there is a lot that is understandable that will give insights, though it shouldn't be a substitute for going to the doctor when an injury occurs. It also has a very comprehensive set of exercises for every potential injury, but also for general stretching and strengthening. I haven't found any that are unreasonable or out-of-date yet. It's a very useful book, in my opinion.

- and Dancing Longer, Dancing Stronger – a dancer's guide to improving technique and preventing injury, by Andrea Watkins and Priscilla Clarkson. Another good book, one notch down from Sally Fitt's book. This is the book my DS refers to most often (Note: This book is VERY USEFUL for parents too, IMHO.) Much of it is written in question and answer format, and includes questions like "Why is it important to keep my heels down in the demi plié that proceeds and follows a jump?", "What is scoliosis?", and "When is a good time to go on pointe?" The answers are straightforward, and include the reasoning, references to diagrams and potential exercises.

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I have an IADMS membership so I could receive their journals. Before becoming a member, I'd read various publications or articles of theirs off and on through the years.


IADMS stands for International Association for Dance Medicine and Science. They put out a quarterly scientific peer-reviewed journal. While parts of some articles are over my head, I have found many of them to be very helpful. Their membership dues are reasonable and vary depending on the subscriber's involvement in the dance world, with schools and medical professionals paying 75% more for their membership than students and professional dancers.


Take a look at their website

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A title that I don't see so far is Inside Ballet Technique - separating anatomical fact from fiction in the ballet class by Valerie Grieg. A very helpful book! :shrug:

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  • 4 weeks later...
Guest Chedva

My daughter's reading "The Tao of Pooh" for her English class, and my husband has a book called "The Tao of Voice". I did a search on Amazon (using the link posted on BA :) ) looking for "The Tao of Dance" or "The Tao of Ballet", but no luck clear luck. Anyone know of any book that might be similar?



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  • 8 months later...

For older dancers, the Ken Laws books explaining how the laws of physics relate to dance and pas de deux are very good.

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Good suggestion amethyst: Physics and the Art of Dance: Understanding Movement

by Kenneth Laws, Martha Swope - it's available, as are most if not all of these, through that handy link at the top of the page for Amazon.


I have so many of these books, hmm, perhaps I should sell them via eBay? :clapping:

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I'll add my vote for Ballet for Dummies as well. My dd bought a copy and, while she/we already much of what was inside, it was presented in a fun and lively way that made it enjoyable reading.

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  • 5 months later...

I have a few that i really like:

I think its just called "The Ballet Book", it's by a dancer at ABT and basically goes through all of the parts of class, major ballets, and the life of a dancer....very interesting.

Great Balanchine biography by Bernard Taper

I also like the Linda Hamilton book, very frank and honest

Another great advice book is "Finding Balance" by Gigi Berardi...although, i have to say that some of the best advice I've gotten has been from this board! (aside from my teachers, of course! :D )

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I really like, Finding Balance, by GigiBerardi, as well. Wonderful for parents. Great reference resource. I bought it after my DD had a knee injury. Very helpful.

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