In our Library we aim to feature literature that is helpful to all dancers, but has also been read, reviewed and recommended by us GUBs. Since this site is still under construction, we are starting out with a list of books and one review by Lucinde. Later reviews are most likely going to be posts of their own, with the label "Library" for easy finding.
To get started with ballet reading, you need a good intro into ballet lingo. There are some web versions complete with video clips, and you definitely should check them out:
American Ballet Theatre´s (ABT) online ballet dictionary features about 170 terms, many demonstrated by ABT´s dancers: ABT BALLET DICTIONARY
Royal Opera House has a brilliant video player on youtube: BALLET GLOSSARY
As for books.. Definitely recommend reading in addition to taking class. Ballet is so steeped in history and tradition, and every advancing dancer should do well to find out more about their art. It is also fun!
Gail Grant: Technical Manual and Dictionary of Classical Ballet (1967). This one is a widely recommended classic. It describes some 1100 steps, complete with pronunciation guide (if French is not your langue).
Gretchen W. Warren: Classical Ballet Technique (1990). A completely photo-illustrated reference guide. It is a bit more expensive, but not to miss.
Valerie Grieg: Inside Ballet Technique (1994). Seperating anatomical fact from fiction in the ballet class.
For our first book review by Lucinde:
The Ballet Companion by Eliza Gaynor Minden, Simon and Schuster, New York, 2005.
This is the first book I would recommend to any student, adult or child, who is new to ballet. It is comprehensive, but easy to understand. It covers all the basics, but does not patronise. Minden begins with a ‘Getting Started’ section, which may help the adult beginner choose their school or style, decide what to wear and discusses and neglected aspect of ballet education: etiquette. How many times have you walked into a studio, frightened to take a place at the barre, talk to anyone, go from the corner until you have gauged the atmosphere in the class? Or maybe have perceived ballet class to be full of tripping points (metaphorically) and have never plucked up the courage to have a go?
Historical snippets intersperse the book throughout, thus helping to understand why we do certain things today. For example, did you know Catherine di Medici is widely considered to have commissioned the first ‘ballet’ as we know it? Or that Scottish dance inspired Massine?
Where Minden excels, though, is in the listed warm-up and stretch section, and anatomical section. The stretches are beautifully illustrated – a must in any ballet book- by gorgeous dancers from the New York City Ballet. Pointe work is covered, as is men’s work, late beginners and pregnancy, albeit briefly. The fact these subjects, with the exception of men’s work, are covered is a revelation in itself. It may be expected that Minden would promote her own brand of shoes at this point, but I can find no obvious passage where this is the case.
Minden lists a short section of common injuries, but this is not the best reason for obtaining this book. For me, I love the section demonstrating the various ballet positions, which have different names according to the system your teacher is schooled in. This is especially useful if you attend with more than one teacher or you have a change class. Even more useful, if, like many adult ballet-obsessives, you decide to begin taking exams and find yourself next to a 9 year old schooled from 3, in your examination. For complete beginners there are photographs of the basic positions of the feet and arms. After looking at these I find some of my beginners improve considerably overnight and desist in looking completely confused in class.
There are many good dance books on the market but this is the one to start with. From here – and the book’s bibliography – you can find which area interests you the most. In fact, there is something to please everyone. (LL)
Page edited by Johanna.