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…]

Expand Your Library or Horizons: 13 Books on Dance and Culture

I’ve been following Renée Rothman’s Dance Doc’s Think Tank blog since (I think) its beginnings and certainly from early on in the life of Dance Advantage. Dr. Rothman is a scholar and educator and her insights on everything from Bellydance to So You Think You Can Dance fascinate me because I almost always learn something about dance and particularly dance in American culture.

In this article, she provides an invaluable list of dance resources (and a helpful description of each) for even the non-academics in the house. Bookmark this one – perfect additions to your personal, academic, or school’s dance library! Just click on the titles to view or purchase on Amazon.

Dancing always takes place within specific historical and cultural contexts. Anthropologists attempt to explain the power and purpose of dance activities by detailing these meaningful contexts. I have assembled a small list of dance books that cover a range of dance forms from the U.S. and abroad.

A few of these are full-on ethnographies, a specific sort of literature that includes very thick descriptions of specific populations meant for scholars. I’ve put a star – * – by these. All of the selections are ethnographic in that they address the human meaning and experience of dancing. All of the books were selected because they are easy for non-academic audiences to read—that is, short on jargon but long on insight—and are relevant in today’s world of dance.


IMAGE Dancing: The Pleasure, Power, and Art of Movement IMAGEDancing: The Pleasure, Power, and Art of Movement

by Gerald Jonas. Harry N. Abrams in association with Thirteen/WNET 1992

I used this as my textbook when I taught Dance in World Cultures and still recommend it as an excellent primer on the subject. It was produced to accompany the PBS 8-part film series which may be available at your public library. World dance forms are compared along topical lines such as religion, gender, and courtly society. One chapter, for instance, compares two 400-year-old classical dance traditions: Japanese kabuki and Western ballet. Among the varieties of dance you will encounter are dances from Africa, Polynesia, and Southeast Asia.

International Encyclopedia of Dance

IMAGE International Encyclopedia of Dance IMAGEedited by Selma Jeanne Cohen and the Dance Perspectives Foundation. Oxford University Press 1998

This 6-volume collection is a comprehensive, reliable and well-documented reference on the histories and cultures of world dance. It has nearly 2,000 entries covering geographical regions, historic and modern styles, and biographies of dancers and choreographers. Its price puts it out of reach for most of us as individuals (a used paperback copy starts at $200), but it is the best resource for dance researchers of any caliber.

Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy [Read more…]