It’s Christmas season, which means Nutcracker time—here are five works that delve into the highs, the lows and the nitty gritty in the world of ballet.
The Ballerina Mindset: How to Protect Your Mental Health While Striving for Excellence by Megan Fairchild
If there were a ballet dancer who I would want as my big sister, that would be Megan Fairchild (move out the way, Robbie). The 16-year New York City Ballet Principal Dancer has always been a warm and engaging presence on Instagram. She runs an interview channel on YouTube where she talks ballet with other dance figures. And the mother of three is also behind the professional ballet tips podcast Ask Megan.
It was on an Ask Megan episode where a book editor at Penguin listened and used her advice to run a marathon. The editor shared this with Fairchild, who was then inspired to write a book. Focusing on 10 major lessons she has learned in her career, Fairchild shares the stories behind those crucial moments, from how to deal with stage fright, imposter syndrome, negative feedback, and more.
While the dancer writes from the perspective of a ballerina, her words resonate with athletes, artists, and other professionals working in a high-stakes environment.
Swan Dive: The Making of a Rogue Ballerina by Georgina Pazcoguin
We love a good tell-all, don’t we? Georgina Pazcoguin, the first Asian-American (she is half-Filipino!) NYCB Soloist is the one to write the latest in the ballet world. She tells the story of the start of her career, going from small-town PA to NYC, to learning at the School of American Ballet (the most famous school of ballet in the US) and being accepted as a dancer at one of the most revered companies in the world, the New York City Ballet.
With her signature verve and wit, Pazcoguin takes us to the highs and lows, of which there have been plenty at NYCB in the last few years. She doesn’t hold back, openly confronting scandal and sharing the dark side of things that have been previously swept under the carpet. Despite all of this, she stays hopeful and positive that things will change for the better.
Black Ballerinas: My Journey to Our Legacy by Misty Copeland
The first African-African principal dancer at American Ballet Theater, Misty Copeland’s latest book is a celebration of dancers of colors that have inspired her. Copeland grew up dreaming of dance, knowing it was rare that famous dancers looked like her. At the age of 16, she saw a black ballet dancer on the cover of the magazine for the first time. This convinced her that her dream of dancing on the world’s stage was not impossible.
In this collection, Copeland puts together the trailblazing women who inspired her, bringing their stories of pushing back against institutionalized racism with their talent and never-give-up spirit. The lives and legacies of these women on dance, her career, and hopefully the future careers of young dancers like Copeland cannot be understated.
Turning Pointe: How a New Generation of Dancers Is Saving Ballet from Itself by Chloe Angyal
This beloved art form is ripe for a reckoning. In journalist Chloe Angyal’s book, she shines a light on the intense love of ballet among its practitioners while sharing the toxic flaws: power imbalances, outdated beauty standards, and the industry-wide belief of “not standing out” which can have negative repercussions for dancers of color.
Angyal believes all is not hopeless: despite evidence of those in the halls of power growing ever more out of step, a new group of dancers is spearheading discussions of change in the studio and on stage, in a way that is sustainable for the development of all kinds of dancers.
Apollo’s Angels: A History of Ballet by Jennifer Homans
The first cultural history of ballet ever written, Apollo’s Angels is a piece of groundbreaking scholarship that starts from ballet’s origins in the Renaissance and quickly moves to the delineation of steps in Louis XIV’s court
It has shifted across Europe and the United States in the hands of émigré dancers as it moves into a radical transformation. Homans, a historian, critic, and former professional dancer infuses the page with her love and passion for the art.