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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Books: Ballet books for 13+

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Does anyone remember Regina J. Woody? When I was growing up and reading "American Girl' magazine, which was the official magazine of the Girl Scouts, her short stories were often printed there. I also checked out all of her books from the local library, the most memorable one being "Ballet in the Barn." The books are virtually extinct now -- I can barely find out anything on E-bay. Very disheartening. I also do seem to remember Lee Wyndham -- will have to check that out again.


I too agree that no one is too old for any of Streatfeild's books. Remember that lovely scene in "You've Got Mail" when Meg Ryan's character talks about these books with tears in her eyes?


Here's another suggestion: go to your local bookseller and ask to order "The Random House Book of Dance Stories." The ISBN number is 0-679-88529-3. This is an anthology of ballet and other dance stories by the likes of: Louisa May Alcott, Rudyard Kipling, Noel Streatfield, and Oscar Wilde. This books sells for $9.99, and would make a wonderful holiday stocking stuffer.


Some time ago, I found a wonderful book (in a library sale) by Nada Curcija-Prodanovic called "Ballerina," which has wonderful sketches throughout as well. It was written in 1964 and first published by Oxford University Press -- with the American edition published by Criterion Books, Inc. It depicts life in a ballet school for a young dancer and her realization of becoming a company member. The author worked as a piano teacher at the State Ballet School in Belgrade. Very special to me because one of my dearest teachers was from Belgrade, and my grandparents came from Yugoslavia.


I found a set of Satin Slippers at my local St. Vincent de Paul thrift shop. I have numbers one through 12 (but missing no. 7) which follow the career of a young dancer with a school in San Francisco, named "Leah Stephenson." Anyone familiar with that series?


I never care what age these books are supposed to be for, since I collect children's and young adult fiction for my own pleasure. Re-reading these books and reading them for the first time is highly therapeutic -- a part of us is always a young girl.

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Guest Adrienne

I'm 23, but I read LOTS of YA and middle-grade fiction, since 1) I love it; and 2) it's what I want to write. (Well, I do write it; I just don't get it published. Someday...)


My favourite young adult ballet book is As the Waltz Was Ending by Emma Macalik Butterworth, but it's out of print and very difficult to get a hold of. It's not exactly a novel-- it's mostly autobiographical and only slightly fictionalized. Amazon.com describes it as:


"An autobiographical account of a young girl whose ballet career with the Vienna State Opera was interrupted by the invasion of the Nazis and who later had to fight for her life during the Russian occupation."


I also loved the Bad News Ballet books, a middle-grade 10-book series published in the late '80s. They're fairly easy to find in used bookstores, and also at least some of them were reissued a few years ago with new covers. Very funny books about a group of 5 misfit ballet students, pushed into taking classes by their mothers. They become friends and eventually get to like ballet. By the husband-and-wife writing team Jahnna N. Malcolm. I think the series was called Scrambled Legs in the UK.


I think I am being called, so I'll finish this later, and maybe I can mention some books that are actually in PRINT!

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hi ! I'm glad I'm not the only one to read children's book at an advanced age (I'm 25) . It's actually partly because I'd like to write some too , and partly because I'm writing a thesis using some of them ; this is how I discovered As the Waltz was ending (because I am studying WW2)

I don't know if anyone mentionned those , which are among my favorite :

the serie about Sadler's Wells (about 8 books) by Lorna Hill and by the same writer 'Dancer in the Wings'

serie 'Ballet School' by Mal Lewis Jones

'The first step' and 'Dancer in the wings' (no mistake) by Jean Richardson

Of course the Drina books and Scrambled Legs and Jean Ure's novels...

I also have some titles of French books if anyone's interested ... :shrug:

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Adrienne, I have a copy myself of "As the Waltz Was Ending". I loved it too. It's a very popular book among middle schoolers where I teach.

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A newer book (recently released in paper back) with a ballet theme for middle-school, early highschool is All the Blue Moons at the Wallace Hotel by ? (sorry I'm blanking), though ballet is definitely in the background.

It's a beautiful book, a little more substantial than most.

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Guest Adrienne

Okay, here's one that's actually still in print-- Come a Stranger by Cynthia Voight. It's about a black ballet dancer, Mina, who first experiences racism at a summer performing arts camp. I don't remember much about it, but I do remember that her first summer at camp, she and her friends do a Narnia-themed ballet, which I thought was amazingly cool. I think the book might be tangentially related to the Tillerman family saga.


More out-of-print titles: Samantha on Stage, by Susan C. Farrar, about 11-year-old Samantha, who was always the best dancer in her class until the new Russian girl, Lizinka, joins. Sam is jealous when Lizinka gets the part of Clara in The Nutcracker, but they become friends. Awww.


The Maggie Adams books by Karen Strickler Dean. I have the first two. I don't really like them much. She wrote some other ballet books, too, but I don't know much about them.


Kate's Turn by Jeanne Betancourt. I read it years ago and just bought a used copy of it and reread it.


Ah, once again I'll continue this later. Must dash.

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The ballet fades pretty quickly in Come a Stranger, though C. Voight is always worth reading. Mina is starting to fill out, and she ends up leaving a summer program (I think her problem is agravated by being the only black girl there, on top of the butt-boobs problem), and most of the book is taken up with her relationship with a new preacher in town.

I think this is before Dicy and the other kids arrive, but I haven't read it in a while, definitely connected with the Tillermans as Mina later becomes good friends with Dicy.

I remember loving the Maggie Adams books in jr high, but I suspect they would embarrass me today...

A great book that I only vaguely remember (title may have had the word Joker in it?) is about the rivalry between two "best" girls at a ballet studio. Their teacher takes them to see Pavlova, who gives the non-heroine girl a pair of her pointes.... A really dark and interesting book as I remember it. Anybody here read it?

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There's another out-of-print book called "Ballerina" by Edward Stewart. The novel follows the lives of two friends named Stephanie and Christine and their ballet careers. The book is heavily detailed about ballet life (I don't know how accurate it really is or if it was exaggerated for dramatic effect) and is a very interesting, compelling read. It's one of my favorites that I like to go back and reread every now and then. Of course, I enjoyed the Satin Slippers series as a teenager, although I only have up to #8 I think. I'll have to see if I can find the rest so I can read what happened to Leah! :dry:

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Arabesque, I have them all, with the exception of one somewhere in the middle, so I could update you -- I'll have to go through them again. I do recall one where Leah got injured and had to retrain from scratch.

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Thanks, Funny Face, that would be great! It looks like I've read up to #9 (I just checked Amazon to see the titles). Although I don't recognize #8, "Stepping Out." I must have missed that one. How many books were there in all? Amazon lists up to #12. I read these books in early high school when they first came out, so it's been some time since I've seen them and they're all stored at my parent's house now.

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There are 12 in all. I'm missing No. 7.


No. 9 -- Chance to Love (Leah gets more interested in a guy than ballet)


No. 10 -- Rising Star (Leah gets caught up in dancing in two conflicting performances at the same time)


No. 11 -- Startng Over (Leah gets injured and has to fight her way back to restoring her technique)


No 12 -- Summer Dance (Leah gets into a renewed rivalry with her former nemesis from San Francisco when the two are at an SI in Vermont together)

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Thanks to all of you for providing some books to rediscover or discover for the first time.


FF - thanks for the "Random House Book of Dance Stories"...I was unaware this was out there. Like most girls/young ladies and women, I love anything Louisa May Alcott wrote. :D Of course we can't leave out Kipling etc.

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Guest Adrienne

I recently found a copy of Ballerina at a used bookstore and I read it a few weeks ago. Stewart's writing "style" is horribly ridiculous purple prose, very melodramatic, but I agree that the story is interesting and compelling. I really got to care about the characters, too. It's about 500 pages long but an easy read; I read it in two days.


I can't believe I forgot to mention this one before: On Stage, Please by Veronica Tennant. It's a favourite of mine, and it's in print. It's about a ten-year-old girl named Jennifer and her first term at the National Ballet School. It's hardly surprising that the details of the ballet world, and ballet school world, should ring true, considering its author. As an added bonus, Tennant is a talented writer. Great book. :D


Although I never read them when I was a kid, I'm now working on acquiring the Satin Slippers books. I've bought three of them so far-- #2, #3, and #6, and I know there are copies of five others in a used bookstore downtown, but I haven't purchased those yet. I haven't read any of them yet-- I've got plenty of reading to do for school, too! :D

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Guest John-Michael

I seem to remember Ballerina being a lot like a typical trash novel... simple-minded but lively writing, soap opera romance, dysfunctional families, and lots of backstabbing and conniving.

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Yes, I agree, Ballerina is VERY melodramatic and soap-operish, but it sure held my attention and I enjoyed reading it. :wink:


And thank you, Funny Face, for synopses of the Satin Slippers books!

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