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Find Your Inner Child With These 6 New Dance Books for Kids

Jill Randall

Whether you're getting a head start on holiday shopping, seeking books to add to your curriculum or studio lobby, or entertaining a young dancer at home, 2020 has been a banner year for dance-focused children's books.

Dance Teacher rounded up six of the most exciting—from the origin story of ballet's biggest star to celebrations of boys dancing to breaking down dances from around the world. (Bonus: Several are available in audiobook and/or video form!)


Bunheads

By Misty Copeland and illustrator Setor Fiadzigbey

32 pages; G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers (2020)

American Ballet Theatre principal dancer Misty Copeland's latest children's book, Bunheads, is a biographical story of a young Misty. (Her previous children's book, Firebird, came out in 2014.) Told in third person, Copeland shares the story of her first dance class, her experience auditioning for a role in Coppélia as a child and earning the role as Swanilda, and her friendship with a classmate named Cat.

A delightful picture book for aspiring dancers in preschool and elementary school, Bunheads captures Copeland's instant love and curiosity for dance.

Welcome to Ballet School

By Ashley Bouder and illustrator Julia Bereciartu

64 pages; Frances Lincoln Children's Books (2020)

New York City Ballet principal dancer Ashley Bouder begins her new picture book with a letter to the reader, sharing that the story is based on her own childhood and studying with her beloved teacher Marcia Dale Weary.

Bereciartu's illustrations highlight a diverse group of young students experiencing their first ballet class. Geared towards dancers in the 3-to-7 age range, students learn the basic positions of ballet and then hear a bit about the classic story of Sleeping Beauty.

Boys Dance! (presented by American Ballet Theatre)

By John Robert Allman and illustrated by Luciano Lozano

40 pages; Doubleday Books for Young Readers (2020)

Boys Dance!, which was released as part of a new partnership between Random House and American Ballet Theatre, takes us into an all-boys ballet class. With playful rhyming text, author John Robert Allman explains the basic format of the class and some beginning ballet vocabulary.

The book concludes by highlighting eight male ABT dancers, with photos and short first-person accounts.

Black Boys Dance Too: Darnell Enters a Talent Show

By Jamal Josef and illustrator Adrian Turner

20 pages; Jamal Josef (2020)

Written by dancer Jamal Josef, Black Boys Dance Too: Darnell Enters a Talent Show also explores the journey of an aspiring male dancer—though in this one, protagonist Darnell experiences the all-too-familiar experience of being made fun of for his interest in dance. Eventually, though, preparing for the school's talent show with other boys who want to dance gives Darnell's story a happy ending. Black Boys Dance Too is a sweet and assuring book for kids in preschool to first grade.

Let's Dance!

By Valerie Bolling and illustrator Maine Diaz

32 pages; Boyds Mills Press (2020)

For young ones in preschool and kindergarten, Valerie Bolling's rhyming text explores 10 styles of dance from around the world. Maine Diaz's illustrations depict joyful children performing dances from China, Guinea and India, to name a few.

B is for Ballet: A Dance Alphabet (presented by American Ballet Theatre)

By John Robert Allman and illustrator Rachael Dean

48 pages; Doubleday Books for Young Readers (2020)

American Ballet Theatre and author John Robert Allman ambitiously published two picture books this fall. B is for Ballet uses clever rhyming text for an alphabetical journey through key ballet terms, plus choreographers, dancers and famous ballets.

Higher Ed
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When it comes to Cynthia Oliver's classes, you always bring your A game. (As her student for the last two and a half years in the MFA program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, I feel uniquely equipped to make this statement.) You never skip the reading she assigns; you turn in not your first draft but your third or fourth for her end-of-semester research paper; and you always do the final combination of her technique class full-out, even if you're exhausted.

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Clockwise from top left: Courtesy Ford Foundation; Christian Peacock; Nathan James, Courtesy Gibson; David Gonsier, courtesy Marshall; Bill Zemanek, courtesy King; Josefina Santos, courtesy Brown; Jayme Thornton; Ian Douglas, courtesy American Realness

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