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I am just reading a novel called 84 Ribbons, which I suspect is for young adults really, but I am loving it. I am constantly looking for ballet novels and biographies, but I have have read everything I can find on Amazon,etc,and am now struggling to find anything new.

 

Has anyone got a favourite that they can suggest that I might not have read?

 

I suspect that my standards are lower when it comes to ballet books than they are for other books!

Edited by cavycapers

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Here are few suggestions.

 

1.Theatre Street, Tamara Karsavina's account of her training at the Imperial Ballet School in the late nineteenth century and her early career.

 

2.Dancing for Diaghilev, Lydia Sokolova 's autobiography written with the assistance of Richard Buckle. Sokolova whose real name was Hilda Munnings grew up in London and was renamed by Diaghilev himself.

 

3.Choura. Alexandra Danilova's autobiography.

 

4.Speaking of Diaghilev. John Drummond. He filmed interviews with a large number of dancers who had worked for Diaghilev.The edited version was shown by the BBC in two parts years ago.The interviews were transcribed and the book is the result.

 

5.My Theatre Life. Auguste Bournonville. 

 

6.Secret Muses  a biography of Frederick Ashton.

 

7.Different Drummer a biography of Kenneth MacMillan.

 

8.Theatre in my Blood John Percival's biography of John Cranko.

 

9.Any of the autobiographical works that De Valois wrote and Kathrine Sorley Walker's study of the founder of the Royal Ballet all bear reading.

 

10.The Making of Markova. The recent biography of Alicia Markova who danced for Diaghilev when a child, danced her first Giselle for the Vic Wells ballet, knew and worked with both Balanchine and Ashton at the beginning of their careers and who,,with Anton Dolin founded London Festival Ballet.

 

11.Bronislava Nijinska's autobiography. She embarked on an autobiography.The first part was published I do not know if the second part was ever completed let alone published.The book is fascinating and tells you a great deal about her brother Nijinsky.

 

12. Anything by Ivor Guest or Cyril Beaumont.

 

If you are at all interested in ballet history then Ivor Guest is the authority on the subject of nineteenth century ballet.His books on the Romantic ballet in England and France and ballet under Napoleon.are all well worth reading.He also wrote biographies of Adeline Genee and Fanny Elssler among others.

 

Cyril Beaumont was an authority on ballets, their texts and stage action..He wrote a series of books on ballets which describe them. They are now out of print but well worth searching out. I think that the first one was called The Complete Book of Ballets  and  there were a series of supplements to it. It contains descriptions of some long lost Bournonville ballets.it can on occasion even be consoling. It is somehow reassuring to discover that even in the early twentieth century some ballets were totally dependent on their original cast for their effect. He wrote of Thamar a ballet that the Maris Liepa group brought to London a couple of seasons ago that only those who had seen the ballet in its first season with Karsavina  in the title role could ever truly be said to have seen the work. He also wrote monographs on Giselle (The Ballet called Giselle) and Swan Lake (The Ballet called Swan Lake) which discuss their origins, performance history and choreographic texts .Both of these.monographs are still in print.

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And I must mention 'A Bullet In The Ballet' by Carol Brahms and ? Simon.  And, though not as good, the other books about the Ballet Stroganoff.  They are a wonderful send up of the old, endlessly touring Ballets Russes companies.

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If you're really looking for autobiographies, then Theatre Street by Karsavina is a must. The best edition is the one published by Dance Books because of the huge number of rare photographs published there.

For biographies, try "The Worlds of Lincoln Kirstein" by Martin Duberman. It's highly informative while maintaining readability.

If you think you might like something readable, a bit gossipy but reliable, have a look at "Buckle At the Ballet" by Richard Buckle.

I got the impression you are looking for some fiction. S.J. Simon and Caryl Brahms wrote a series of books about the troubles and travails of life in a touring Russian Ballet company. The first (and probably best) is "A Bullet In The Ballet".

Gore Vidal writing as Edgar Box wrote a couple of ballet novels which are a lot of fun. The first is called "Death In The Fifth Position" and is deliciously fun especially if you can put the real people into their fictional counterparts!

 

A word of warning - Floss' suggestions are absolutely correct, but, be very cautious with Cyril Beaumont.While being factually accurate, his prose style is deadly. Dip into his works (especially the Complete Book and the three successor volumes) for information, otherwise they are useful soporific!

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And there's "Death comes to the Ballet Russe", the thirteenth Lord Francis Powerscourt detective novel by David Dickinson.

These are written slightly tongue-in-cheek, I suspect. I find them enjoyable, and this one has every chapter headed by the description of an appropriate ballet step, and a number of well-known ballet personages caught up one way or another in the murder. The ballet Thamar ends with the queen stabbing the prince to death (makes a change!) and throws him in the river, but then life mirrors art when the dancer is found dead in the orchestra pit at Covent Garden. And did Fokine really keep shouting at the Corps de Ballet?

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I like reading dance autobiographies. Some I have enjoyed which haven't been mentioned include Gelsey Kirkland's two volumes, particularly the first, Dancing on My Grave, Lynn Seymour's 'Lynn' and 'Ballerina: A Dancer's Life' by Margueritte Porter. ( I wish Anthony Dowell would write his memoirs).

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If you want a good long novel (730 pages!) then try Dancing on Thorns by Rebecca Horsfall about a male dancer in a small struggling company.  Great fun, a bit over the top of course, but the references to the ENB and RB are wickedly funny.  Perfect holiday reading and it's nice to have a ballet story that shows the male point of view for a change.

 

For biographies, many of Balanchine's stars have written about their experiences with the great (in their eyes at least) man.  Try Zorina (Vera Zorina), Choura (Danilova), Holding on to the Air (Suzanne Farrell) & Prodigal Son (Villella) many of which highlight the sheer hard work and sometimes brutal reality of a life in ballet in general and with Balanchine in particular.

 

Linda

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Some ballet books I've enjoyed recently...

 

Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead - fiction. Can't recommend this highly enough, I just found it a delightful read.

Where the Snowflakes Dance and Swear: Inside the Land of Ballet by Stephan Manes (nonfiction). A very comprehensive all access look at the PNB ballet company.

Winter's Season: A Dancer's Journey by Toni Bentley. Autobiography of a Balanchine ballerina.

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Oh you guys! That's a fantastic response. I have only read a fraction of these. I shall look them all up.

I'm so glad I asked. Thank you all.

Ps I have just finished The Cranes Dance by Meg Howrey and loved it.

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I have to say I am also very glad you asked this question cavycapers. I have been thinking about increasing my ballet reading and now I have no excuse! Brilliant!

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What an informative thread! Do you have also some books to suggest for a 12 years old dancer? My DD read all the Diaries of the Royal Ballet School and some other Italian ballet novels, but she finds the most of them quite childish and, to be honest, some are very bad written! I gave her some biographies I read, though they are for adult readers, so sometimes quite difficult for her.

It seems that ballet books have a gap, at least in Italy: you go from young children readings (suggested for 8-10 years) to adult ones! Nothing for teenagers +!

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What an informative thread! Do you have also some books to suggest for a 12 years old dancer? My DD read all the Diaries of the Royal Ballet School and some other Italian ballet novels, but she finds the most of them quite childish and, to be honest, some are very bad written! I gave her some biographies I read, though they are for adult readers, so sometimes quite difficult for her.

It seems that ballet books have a gap, at least in Italy: you go from young children readings (suggested for 8-10 years) to adult ones! Nothing for teenagers +!

 

My younger sister (14) read Bunheads by Sophie Flack, and really enjoyed it. I suggest looking at the description to see if it is appropriate, of course. 

She's also read Breaking Pointe and it's sequel Girl in Motion by Miriam Wenger-Landis which are more young adult targeted. 

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Two titles which are new and perfect for young teenagers are Dance of Shadows and Dance of Fire by Yelena Black. Another really interesting and uplifting book for young people is Hope in A Ballet Shoe the true story of Michaela DePrince who grew up in Sierra Leone under some horrendous circumstances, then adopted and brought to the USA. She's currently dancing as a first soloist with Dutch National Ballet.

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Older (in the sense of when they were written) childrens ballet books include the 'Wells' series by Lorna Hill. They were written in the 1950s and 60s but have a real feeling for ballet (and also some horseriding too). They are probably out of print but possibly available secondhand on Amazon Marketplace, Ebay or charity shops.

 

My favourite ballet series written at roughly the same time is the Drina dances series by Jean Estoril. They follow the life of a small girl from learning to dance to becoming a ballerina (10 books) and are a really great read. I still read them! Yet again you will probably need to get them secondhand.

 

Veronica Tennant and Jean Ure also wrote ballet books for young teens in about the 70s or 80s.

 

Rumer Godden wrote the splendid Thursdays Children about a boy wanting to be a ballet dancer. Also Pippa Passes about a 17 year old in the corps de ballet on holiday in Italy.  Apparently, her autobiography A time to dance no time to weep, though I haven't read it, touches on her love of dance. She also wrote The Tale of the Tales about the adaptation of the Beatrix Potter books for ballet.

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I've a feeling Rumer Godden Also wrote about ballet in A Candle for St Jude.

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I'm only 100 pages in at the moment, but I'm currently thoroughly enjoying Gillian Lynne's autobiography A Dancer In Wartime. It's written in a beautifully lyrical way, and very movingly in places - it's already brought a tear to my eye on a couple of occasions! :)

 

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Dancer-Wartime-girls-journey-Sadlers/dp/0701185996

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Older (in the sense of when they were written) childrens ballet books include the 'Wells' series by Lorna Hill. They were written in the 1950s and 60s but have a real feeling for ballet (and also some horseriding too). They are probably out of print but possibly available secondhand on Amazon Marketplace, Ebay or charity shops.

 

My favourite ballet series written at roughly the same time is the Drina dances series by Jean Estoril. They follow the life of a small girl from learning to dance to becoming a ballerina (10 books) and are a really great read. I still read them! Yet again you will probably need to get them secondhand.

 

Veronica Tennant and Jean Ure also wrote ballet books for young teens in about the 70s or 80s.

 

Rumer Godden wrote the splendid Thursdays Children about a boy wanting to be a ballet dancer. Also Pippa Passes about a 17 year old in the corps de ballet on holiday in Italy.  Apparently, her autobiography A time to dance no time to weep, though I haven't read it, touches on her love of dance. She also wrote The Tale of the Tales about the adaptation of the Beatrix Potter books for ballet.

I still have some of my "Wells" books. And a very precious copy of The Tale of the Tales.

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I love this thread thank you! I ordered Tale of the Tales the other day. Rumer Godden wrote Tottie too which I'm sure was a TV series or I had it from the library but I remember reading it. Jean Estoril who wrote the Drina books (my favourite) also wrote the Ballet Family (2 books) and The Ballet Twins. There is also the Satin Slippers series by Elizabeth Bernard about an American student Leah. These are def more for teens.

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As a child in the 1940's I read a lovely book about Pavlove called A Star Danced but I can't remember who wrote it. She also wrote a book called Prelude about the life of the pianist Eileen Joyce. I would love to re read if anyone can remember them and give me an authors name.

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Jean Richardson's series about Moth, a young dancer at vocational school, was a favourite of mine at about 11 or 12 - The First Step, Dancer In The Wings and One Foot On The Ground. Rumer Godden's books are lovely and there is another one that ?follows on from A Candle For St Jude, the name of which escapes me at present.

 

One of Jean Ure's books - Supermouse? (or maybe I have invented that as a title!) really appealed to DD as it tells the story of a dancer who has the physique and ability to aim for ballet as a career but who decides that she would prefer to keep it as a beloved hobby and pursue an academic route instead.

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As a child in the 1940's I read a lovely book about Pavlove called A Star Danced but I can't remember who wrote it. She also wrote a book called Prelude about the life of the pianist Eileen Joyce. I would love to re read if anyone can remember them and give me an authors name.

I think it might be Dancing Star by Gladys Malvern, If you are interested in getting hold of a copy, I know a book dealer who has an extensive collection of old ballet books. As it happens, I visited his store today and noticed he has a copy with its original dust jacket. If you would like the details let me know.

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