Dance Advantage Holiday Giftlist

Every year we like to share a few items for your holiday wish- or gift-list.

This year’s clothing items come straight from my own closet and have been time-tested.  Plus, we’ve got a great selection of books for you to choose from.

I hope you (or the dancer in your life) will love these gifts as much as I do!

GypsyWears Zip Wrap


Versatile zip wrap by GypsyWears

GypsyWears Zip Wrap

Last year, our friend Lorry of Bead109 introduced GypsyWears to me and to Dance Advantage readers with a giveaway of the Barre Buddy®. At that time, GypsyWears owner, Rebecca Ruschell, was incredibly gracious and offered me samples of her Bun Buddy® and the Slate/Cranberry Zip Wrap.

I can’t tell you how in love I am with the Zip Wrap.

It doesn’t get super cold here in Houston, but on colder days this wrap works as outerwear and keeps me warm in a chilly studio.

It is cozy, even after a year’s worth of washings. The fabrics are quality.

The cut is classic and flattering, making the zip wrap extremely versatile. It works as well with jeans and heels as it does over comfort clothes. I can’t say that about my hoodies.

The sleeves, which reach to my palm, are perfect.

And the two-way zipper is genius. It’s all about options. You can zip up and then “unzip” the bottom fora little more wiggle-room at the hips. You can also zip the slouch collar all the way up for the snuggly burrito look, or let it fold down for a peek at the (in my case) attractive, red inner lining.

As I said, I received the zip wrap primarily for review but I’ve been wearing it happily for a year. Dancers will be forever grateful for a lasting, useful, and fashionable gift like GypsyWears’ Zip Wrap.


designer4dance Etsy


Another item form my own closet I’d like to share is one from Etsy shop owner, J.D. Karam. He sent me a review sample of the pictured Dolman-style (wide-sleeved) top back in May.

Dolman short-sleeve from designer4dance

Dolman short-sleeve from designer4dance

I’ve been actively wearing it for teaching dance classes ever since. The fabric is very soft and has stayed soft through many washings. The printed design has also proved very durable. I’m a fan of J.D.’s more sophisticated dance designs, but even his more youthful designs have a certain elegance.

Maybe that’s because J.D. had a career as a fine artist before taking up dance.

“I enjoyed pretty good success with my abstract prints, but I felt that my figurative work looked too masculine. So one day, I worked up the courage to walk into a dance studio near my home and it changed my life,” says J.D.

J.D. stayed in dance for 20 years and says he looked forward to every single day, every single class, and every single performance. He has studied under Cindy Saillant, T. J. Maheras at the Phoenix School of Ballet, and Nadia Zubkov and Sergei Perkovskii at The School of Ballet Arizona, and considers himself not a professional, but a “trained dancer with a trained eye”.

He’s been designing for dancers since 1998 and grew his business attending dance conventions. Eventually, J.D. had eight employees and several sales reps around the country but the recession of 2008 and a need to care for his aging parents changed things. Etsy has helped J.D. remain in business at a much smaller scale.

J.D. has more ideas for his Etsy shop, including dance-related printables, gift cards, and jewelry. Dance Advantage encourages support of small business owners. Consider a purchase from J.D.’s designer4dance shop.


Biographies of Three Black Ballerinas

Life in Motion by Misty Copeland

Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina by Misty Copeland

Taking Flight by Michaela DePrince

Taking Flight: From War Orphan to Star Ballerina by Michaela DePrince

Night's Dancer: The Life of Janet Collins

Night’s Dancer: The Life of Janet Collins by Yaël Tamar Lewin and Janet Collins

Any or all of these titles should be on a dancer’s to-read list.

In Life in Motion, ballet prodigy and well-known ballet star, Misty Copeland tells of her unstable childhood which was thrust into the spotlight when she sought emancipation from her mother. The late-starter is only the third-ever African-American soloist for American Ballet Theatre and she’s the first after a 20-year gap.

We will review and live chat about Misty’s memoir December 19 on Dance Advantage, with the aim of discussing many of the books’ themes including:

  • Racial diversity in ballet
  • Economic discrimination in ballet
  • Teachers: external challenges we face with students
  • Students: dealing with and overcoming family obstacles
  • Parents: How far should parents go to encourage their children?
  • Curves and growth; how do we handle body changes in young dancers?

…. Don’t miss it!

Michaela DePrince wrote Taking Flight with the help of her adoptive mother. She first came to our collective attention in the documentary First Position, went on to become a principle dancer at Dance Theater of Harlem, and currently performs with Dutch National Ballet. Not yet 20 years old, she tells the devastating story of her beginnings as a shunned and abused war orphan in Sierra Leone with elegance and courage beyond her years.

Janet Collins began it all. She was the first black ballerina to be hired by a major American ballet company and is a role model beyond the ballet world for her work with deaf students. The author of Night’s Dancer incorporates, Ms. Collins’ own writings an intimate details of her life. A fascinating read about a fascinating life.

If you have younger dancers in mind for gift-giving this season. Check out Firebird, a picture book beautifully written by Misty Copeland (illustrated by Christopher Myers), or Ballerina Dreams, a Step into Reading version of Michaela DePrince’s Taking Flight.

These titles aren’t doing it for you? No problem. Check out these dance book reviews.


Journal Your Way to Dance Success


4for40coverI’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that our 4 for 40 e-mail course is still on sale through December 31st.

4-for-40 is a 40-week motivational, dance journaling guide that includes an inspirational quote, must-know dance terminology, an action challenge, and a writing or list prompt in every colorful, easy-to-read email. It is sent to you personally or makes a great digital gift for the dancer in your life.

Don’t miss your chance to get all 40 weeks for less than one 30-minute private lesson!

From Ballet to the Barnyard: Picture Books in 2011

Editor’s Note: In 2010, I discovered Kerry Aradhya’s blog, Picture Books & Pirouettes. Two subjects I adore: dance and children’s literature. Happily, Kerry agreed to publish a review of the dance picture book trends of 2010. Since then, I’ve watched her blog develop and couldn’t be more tickled to present her summary of 2011!

It never ceases to amaze me how many picture books about dance are floating —or maybe I should say twirlingaround out there.

When I started my blog, which focuses in large part on these books, people would often ask me if there were really enough dance books available to keep my blog going. And my answer was always yes. There really are!

I love discovering picture books about dance that were published some 10, 20, and even 30 years ago, but handfuls of books are also being published during each new year. When I look through the list of books that were released in the United States in 2011, three unique categories of books stand out to me. Here’s a little more about them…

Series for Little Ballerinas

Angelina Ballerina may still be the most popular picture book character for many young dancers, but several characters emerged this year and in the recent past who could eventually give Angelina a run for her money.

Ella Bella Ballerina and Swan Lake
Author: James Mayhew
Illustrator: James Mayhew
Publisher: Barron’s Educational Series

First published in England, the charming series of Ella Bella Ballerina books introduces young readers to some of the world’s most famous ballets. In Ella Bella Ballerina and Swan Lake, little Ella Bella is transported into the magical world of Swan Lake, where she interacts with the Swan Princess and helps her reunite with the prince. Ella Bella Ballerina also has her own blog, where you can follow all of her adventures!

Miss Lina’s Ballerinas and the Prince
Author: Grace Maccarone
Illustrator: Christine Davenier
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends

In 2010, the book Miss Lina’s Ballerinas introduced the ballet mistress Miss Lina and the nine young ballerinas under her tutelage. In the sequel, Miss Lina’s Ballerinas and the Prince, a male ballet student joins the mix. Rhyming text and gorgeous French-inspired illustrations make both books ones to treasure.

Tallulah’s Tutu
Author: Marilyn Singer
Illustrator: Alexandra Boiger
Publisher: Clarion Books

The only reason Tallulah started taking ballet class was because she wanted to wear a tutu, but over time she realizes there is a lot more to love about ballet. The publisher of Tallulah’s Tutu has also created this great activity kit to go along with the book. And the book’s sequel, Tallulah’s Solo, is scheduled to hit bookshelves in 2012.

Spanish and Latin American Dance [Read more…]

Diversity Defines Dance Picture Books in 2010

Today’s guest article is by Kerry Aradhya. She is behind Picture Books & Pirouettes, a new favorite blog of mine. Kerry combines dance and children’s literature (which compliment like chocolate and peanut butter). If you have or work with kids, be sure to pay her site a visit!

The children’s picture book market is filled with books about ballet—classic titles like Angelina Ballerina newer ones like Miss Lina’s Ballerinas and a myriad of Nutcracker books that have been published over the years. No one can dispute that little girls everywhere love putting on their tutus and ballet shoes every week for dance class—and that they also jump up and down for books about ballet. But, with a growing ethnic population and a range of dance styles being offered at studios around the country, picture books are beginning to more accurately reflect the country’s complex demographics. More and more publishers of children’s books are emphasizing diversity in their lists, and dance picture books are among those benefiting from this trend.

A fair share of the dance picture books published in 2010 still revolved around ballet. (A few of my favorites are Miss Tutu’s Star, Brontorina, and Nutcracker Twinkle Toes.) But just as many picture books about OTHER forms of dance made it onto library shelves, into bookstores, and into the hands of little girls and boys this year. These diverse books are a healthy mix of fiction and nonfiction, poetry and prose, and text and pictures targeting toddlers to tweens. Here is a sampling…

Alphabet of Dance (cover)Alphabet of Dance

Written in rhyme, this alphabet book introduces a variety of dance concepts and styles ranging from A to Z. The poetry is far from stellar in its rhythm and depth, but the concept of teaching the alphabet through dance is appealing. So while it is not the best book from a purely literary standpoint, Alphabet of Dance is educational and could be especially appropriate for teachers who want to integrate more dance and movement into the language arts. The book also comes with a tear-out alphabet poster and a downloadable audio version of the text. Ages 4-8.

Ballet for Martha (cover)Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring

Although the word ballet is in the title of this book, Ballet for Martha is not actually about ballet. Author Jan Greenberg, author Sandra Jordon, and illustrator Brian Floca collaborated to tell the story of another amazing collaboration—that of modern dancer and choreographer Martha Graham, composer Aaron Copland, and artist Isamu Noguchi to create the masterpiece “Appalachian Spring.” The book has received rave reviews from the critics, including starred reviews from Kirkus, Horn Book, Publishers Weekly, and Booklist. Ages 9-12

Dance Stories (cover)The Barefoot Book of Dance Stories

Picture books typically range in length from 24 to 48 pages, but this 99-page book has such gorgeous illustrations integrated throughout the text that I still consider it a true picture book. Famous author Jane Yolen and her daughter Heidi Stemple weave the joy of dance through eight dance folktales from eight different cultures in this charming book for children and adults alike. The book also includes a narrated CD and factual information about the dances from the various cultures. Ages 8 and up.

Dancing Feet! (cover>Dancing Feet!

I haven’t actually read this book by author Lindsey Craig and illustrator Marc Brown, but I would love to get my hands on a copy. It celebrates dance and movement in general, and it looks like so much fun! Here is an excerpt from a starred review by Publishers Weekly: “Spontaneous, onomatopoeic verses ask questions that are answered with a page turn: ‘Tippity! Tippity!/ Little black feet!/ Who is dancing that tippity beat?’ leads into a spread that reveals ladybugs cavorting among leaves and dappled orange flowers…In a satisfying finale, kids wearing clothing that mimics the appearance of the various animals demonstrate their own dancing feet. Fluid repetition and snappy rhythm make this a natural for reading aloud–noisily.” Ages 1-4.

Ole! Flamenco (cover)Ole! Flamenco

This nonfiction book, created by award-winning photographer and author George Ancona, is a dynamic history and portrait of the art form known as flamenco. Readers learn about the Gypsy origins of flamenco and how the various components—song, music, and dance—developed over time. Words and photos also show the intricacies of the dance, including the sharp, strong movements of male dancers and the flair and passion with which women swish their skirts back and forth as they move. Ages 6-9.

Tip-Tap Pop (cover)Tip-Tap Pop

Emma’s Pop taught her to tap dance when she was very small, and the two still love to dance together—back-flapping at the farmer’s market, dig-shuffle-chugging through town, and putting on a special show for the family every year on Emma’s birthday. But when Pop starts to forget things, Emma doesn’t feel like dancing anymore…at least for a little while. Once she realizes that she can use dance as a tool to stay connected to Pop, the hop in her step slowly returns. This book is full of great tap dancing sounds, and the expressive illustrations by Valeria Docampo show the joy in Emma’s face when she is dancing. Ages 4-8.

In the coming year, let’s all embrace the joy dance brings us and the other diverse ways in which dance enriches our lives. Happy dancing!

Headshot of Kerry AradhyaKerry Aradhya is a children’s writer and accomplished dancer. She has poems appearing or forthcoming in Stories for Children Magazine, Ladybug Magazine, and Highlights High Five. After falling head over heels for modern dance in college, she has danced professionally with such groups as the Houston Grand Opera and the Natasha Carlitz Dance Ensemble in the San Francisco Bay Area. When Kerry isn’t writing for children or dancing, she just might be partaking in her newest pastime—blogging. You can read more about dance picture books for kids and other ways to integrate children’s literature and dance at her blog, Picture Books & Pirouettes.