5 Must-Read Dance Memoirs

Read these to get your creative juices flowing—or just for the juicy dance-world details.

I Was a Dancer Jacques d’Amboise; Knopf; 2011; 464 pages. Before he became a New York City Ballet principal, Jacques d’Amboise (born Joseph Ahearn) earned his keep by fighting neighborhood gangs. He later created the National Dance Institute to pass on his love of dance to kids all over the world.


Private Domain Paul Taylor; University of Pittsburgh Press; 1987; 406 pages. Read this when your pockets feel particularly empty. Taylor, now one of the most celebrated modern choreographers, once ate dog food to save money.



Dancing on My Grave Gelsey Kirkland; Doubleday; 1986; 286 pages. Kirkland’s legendary partnership with Mikhail Baryshnikov, both on and off the stage, is just a subplot in this drama-filled tale. (And three years later, she wrote a sequel: The Shape of Love.)



Holding on to the Air Suzanne Farrell with Toni Bentley; University Press of Florida; 2002; 352 pages. Perhaps Balanchine’s greatest muse, ballerina Suzanne Farrell was brave enough to leave NYCB when she needed a career change—and humble enough to return, six years later.



Taking Flight: From War Orphan to Star Ballerina Michaela DePrince with Elaine DePrince; Knopf Books for Young Readers; 2014; 256 pages. DePrince overcame a violent childhood in West Africa to become Dance Theatre of Harlem’s youngest principal dancer.




Teachers Trending
Alwin Courcy, courtesy Ballet des Amériques

Carole Alexis has been enduring the life-altering after-effects of COVID-19 since April 2020. For months on end, the Ballet des Amériques director struggled with fevers, tingling, dizziness and fatigue. Strange bruising showed up on her skin, along with the return of her (long dormant) asthma, plus word loss and stuttering.

"For three days I would experience relief from the fever—then, boom—it would come back worse than before," Alexis says. "I would go into a room and not know why I was there." Despite the remission of some symptoms, the fatigue and other debilitating side effects have endured to this day. Alexis is part of a tens-of-thousands-member club nobody wants to be part of—she is a COVID-19 long-hauler.

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Teachers Trending
Annika Abel Photography, courtesy Griffith

When the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May catalyzed nationwide protests against systemic racism, the tap community resumed longstanding conversations about teaching a Black art form in the era of Black Lives Matter. As these dialogues unfolded on social media, veteran Dorrance Dance member Karida Griffith commented infrequently, finding it difficult to participate in a meaningful way.

"I had a hard time watching people have these conversations without historical context and knowledge," says Griffith, who now resides in her hometown of Portland, Oregon, after many years in New York City. "It was clear that there was so much information missing."

For example, she observed people discussing tap while demonstrating ignorance about Black culture. Or, posts that tried to impose upon tap the history or aesthetics of European dance forms.

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Studio Owners
Courtesy Tonawanda Dance Arts

If you're considering starting a summer program this year, you're likely not alone. Summer camp and class options are a tried-and-true method for paying your overhead costs past June—and, done well, could be a vehicle for making up for lost 2020 profits.

Plus, they might take on extra appeal for your studio families this year. Those struggling financially due to the pandemic will be in search of an affordable local programming option rather than an expensive, out-of-town intensive. And with summer travel still likely in question this spring as July and August plans are being made, your studio's local summer training option remains a safe bet.

The keys to profitable summer programming? Figuring out what type of structure will appeal most to your studio clientele, keeping start-up costs low—and, ideally, converting new summer students into new year-round students.

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