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.




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Evelyn Cisneros-Legate. Photo by Beau Pearson, Courtesy Ballet West

Evelyn Cisneros-Legate is bringing her hard-earned expertise to Ballet West. The former San Francisco Ballet star is taking over all four campuses of The Frederick Quinney Lawson Ballet West Academy as the school's new director.

Cisneros-Legate, whose mother put her in ballet classes in an attempt to help her overcome her shyness, trained at the San Francisco Ballet School and School of American Ballet before joining San Francisco Ballet as a full company member in 1977. She danced with the company for 23 years, breaking barriers as the first Mexican American to become a principal dancer in the U.S., and has graced the cover of Dance Magazine no fewer than three times.

As an educator, Cisneros-Legate has served as ballet coordinator at San Francisco Ballet, principal of Boston Ballet School's North Shore Studio and artistic director of after-school programming at the National Dance Institute (NDI). Dance Teacher spoke with her about her new position, her plans for the academy and leading in the time of COVID-19.

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The author with Maurice Hines. Photo by Anthony R. Phillips, courtesy Hopkins

In March, prior to sheltering in place due to the coronavirus outbreak, my husband and I traveled from New York City to Miami to screen our award-winning documentary, Maurice Hines: Bring Them Back, at the Miami Film Festival.

Our star, Tony Award–nominated dancer and choreographer Maurice Hines joined us in Miami for the festival—stepping and repeating on the opening night red carpet, sharing anecdotes from his illustrious seven-decade career with local tap students, and holding court at a cocktail mixer with lively female fans.

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Haruko Photography, courtesy ABT

Gabe Stone Shayer may be American Ballet Theatre's newest soloist, but he never dreamed he'd be dancing with the company at all. Though he grew up in Philadelphia, his sights were always set on international ventures—especially The Bolshoi Ballet and The Royal Ballet.

Even in his early training, he was learning from Russian educators: Alexander Boitsov at Gwendolyn Bye Dance Center, and Alexei and Natalia Cherov, from the Koresh School of Dance. At age 13, he transferred to The Rock School for Dance Education, where he danced until his acceptance to The Bolshoi Ballet Academy at age 14. At 16, Shayer returned to spend his summer in the States and attended ABT's summer intensive—fully intent on going back to Bolshoi to continue his training in the fall. Four weeks in, he was offered a studio-company contract. "I was so surprised," Shayer says. "Having come of age in Russia, I was very Eurocentric. Of course ABT was on my radar, I just never imagined it was for me."

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