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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!)


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.

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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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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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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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