Your Lobby Library — 9 Dance Biographies for Students

The lobby of your studio is a great place for waiting dancers and families to learn a bit more about dance, its history, and its artists. Picture books are a great way to introduce your dancers and perhaps inspire them to learn more and dig deeper into the lives and legacies of important figures in dance.

Click on the titles or images to view or purchase via Amazon

Alvin Ailey

A young reader’s portrait of dancer and choreographer Alvin Ailey considers what the young Alvin might have thought and said and interposes facts about his life and dance theater.

Dancing to Freedom: The True Story of Mao’s Last Dancer


Li Cunxin was born in 1961 in northeast China. The sixth of seven sons from a poor rural family, his life changed forever when he was chosen to study ballet at the Beijing Dance Academy. Following a scholarship to train in America, and a dramatic defection, he became principal dancer for the Houston Ballet. His life story was originally published as Mao’s Last Dancer, which became an international bestseller. This is the picture book version of that story. There is also a Young Reader’s Edition.

Jose! Born to Dance: The Story of Jose Limon

José was a boy with a song in his heart and a dance in his step. Born in Mexico in 1908, he came into the world kicking like a steer, and grew up to love to draw, play the piano, and dream. José’s dreaming took him to faraway places. He dreamed of bullfighters and the sounds of the cancan dancers that he saw with his father. Dance lit a fire in José’s soul.

With his heart to guide him, José left his family and went to New York to dance. He learned to flow and float and fly through space with steps like a Mexican breeze. When José danced, his spirit soared. From New York to lands afar, José Limón became known as the man who gave the world his own kind of dance.

Footwork: The Story of Fred and Adele Astaire

In 1905, four-and-a-half-year-old Fred Astaire put on his first pair of dancing shoes — and from that moment, his life was filled with singing, dancing, and fancy footwork. Fred’s older sister, Adele, was the real dancer, but Fred worked hard to get all the steps just right, and it wasn’t long before he was the one capturing headlines and stealing the show.

Rap A Tap Tap

This simple book for young children tells the life story of a ground-breaking African-American tap dancer. Bill “Bojangles” Robinson was one of the most popular entertainers of the 1920s-30s. People said he “talked with his feet,” and in the Dillons’ graceful paintings of old New York, he dances from page to page to the tune of a toe-tapping rhyme.

I Dreamed I Was a Ballerina

Every girl remembers her first trip to the ballet: the anticipation beforehand, the orchestra’s first notes, the ethereal beauty of the ballerinas. This is a tale of one such girl who was caught up in ballet’s mesmerizing spell and became one of the greatest ballerinas of all time.

In a story drawn from her memoirs, Anna Pavlova describes her first visit to the ballet to see the Sleeping Beauty. With simple, childlike language, she captures her love for her mother, the splendor of the ballet, and the moments that changed her life. The words are matched with paintings, pastels, and drawings of the French Impressionist Edgar Degas, to give this story all the magic of a fairytale.

To Dance: A Ballerina’s Graphic Novel

Dancers are young when they first dream of dance. Siena Cherson Siegel was six — and her dreams kept skipping and leaping, circling and spinning, from airy runs along a beach near her home in Puerto Rico, to dance class in Boston, to her debut performance on stage with the New York City Ballet.

To Dance tells and shows the fullness of her dreams and her rhapsodic life they led to. Part family history, part backstage drama, here is an original, firsthand book about a young dancer’s beginnings — and beyond.

Tallchief: America’s Prima Ballerina

Growing up on the Osage Indian reservation, Maria Tallchief was a gifted pianist and dancer. According to Osage tradition, women are not permitted to dance, but Maria’s parents recognized her gifts and allowed her to break the rule. Then when Maria reached the age of twelve, her father told her it was time to choose between her two loves. Maria chose ballet. It was a decision that would change not only the course of her life, but the face of classical ballet in America.

Isadora Duncan

Isadora Duncan was born in San Francisco, but lived most of her life in Europe. She was a remarkably talented dancer, and a free spirit who never gave up on her dream. She introduced a form of movement that would become the basis for modern dance.

Nichelle (admin)
Nichelle Suzanne began Dance Advantage in 2008, equipped with a passion for movement education and an intuitive sense that a blog could bring dancers together. Nichelle holds a BA in dance and is an instructor with more than 17 years experience. She covers dance performance in the Houston area as a freelance writer and balances daily life as a mom to two young children. In June 2012, Nichelle presented the whats, hows, and whys of blogging on a panel at the annual conference for Dance/USA, the national service organization for professional dance, to better equip artists and companies for engaging their audience and new readers through online communications and content.
Nichelle (admin)
Nichelle (admin)
Nichelle (admin)
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