71 books like Ballet

By Lincoln Kirstein,

Here are 71 books that Ballet fans have personally recommended if you like Ballet. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The People Have Never Stopped Dancing: Native American Modern Dance Histories

Neil Baldwin Author Of Martha Graham: When Dance Became Modern

From my list on dance and dancing.

Why am I passionate about this?

The most important words of advice my incisive editor at Knopf, Victoria Wilson, gave me while I was laboring upon my biography of Martha Graham – coming out in October, you can pre-order it now – was to say that “she was not a goddess, and you don’t want to worship her.” Yes, I had the nerve to take on this formidable and forbidding figure as a result of bearing witness to her anti-War masterwork, Chronicle, on a winter evening fourteen years ago. Yes, I believed that modern dance was the missing link in my long exploration of American modernism. And yes, I believe that I have proven my point, painting Martha Graham’s portrait as a person – rather than an icon.

Neil's book list on dance and dancing

Neil Baldwin Why did Neil love this book?

When I began researching Martha Graham’s multifaceted life, I was intrigued to learn that she spent several summers in the 1930s at the Pueblo communities in New Mexico, where she was fascinated by the ceremonial and ritualistic dance elements of their lives. Entire villages of all generations would gather together on feast days at the center of the pueblo to watch the feather - and shell - and evergreen-costumed pageantry unfold, pounding steps on packed earth, cries to the heavens for rain and good harvests, and prayers for a harmonious year ahead. Graham insisted that she would never “copy” these dances – rather, she took the inspiration gathered in her imagination and mindfully infused it into her own pieces. Thus did Jacqueline Shea Murphy become my very first teacher in the roots and ways of indigenous American dance practices.

By Jacqueline Shea Murphy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The People Have Never Stopped Dancing as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

During the past thirty years, Native American dance has emerged as a visible force on concert stages throughout North America. In this first major study of contemporary Native American dance, Jacqueline Shea Murphy shows how these performances are at once diverse and connected by common influences.

Demonstrating the complex relationship between Native and modern dance choreography, Shea Murphy delves first into U.S. and Canadian federal policies toward Native performance from the late nineteenth through the early twentieth centuries, revealing the ways in which government sought to curtail authentic ceremonial dancing while actually encouraging staged spectacles, such as those in Buffalo…


Book cover of The Last Guru: Robert Cohan's Life in Dance, from Martha Graham to London Contemporary Dance Company

Neil Baldwin Author Of Martha Graham: When Dance Became Modern

From my list on dance and dancing.

Why am I passionate about this?

The most important words of advice my incisive editor at Knopf, Victoria Wilson, gave me while I was laboring upon my biography of Martha Graham – coming out in October, you can pre-order it now – was to say that “she was not a goddess, and you don’t want to worship her.” Yes, I had the nerve to take on this formidable and forbidding figure as a result of bearing witness to her anti-War masterwork, Chronicle, on a winter evening fourteen years ago. Yes, I believed that modern dance was the missing link in my long exploration of American modernism. And yes, I believe that I have proven my point, painting Martha Graham’s portrait as a person – rather than an icon.

Neil's book list on dance and dancing

Neil Baldwin Why did Neil love this book?

In 1946, Sir Robert Paul Cohan CBE (26 March 1925 – 13 January 2021) became one of the first male dancers to join Martha Graham’s company – and stayed for twenty-three years. He went on to become the first Artistic Director of the Contemporary Dance Trust in London and Artistic Advisor to the Batsheva Dance Company in Israel. I had the greatly entertaining privilege of interviewing Sir Robert in the Graham studio at their Westbeth home in NYC, where he regaled me with warm and acerbic vignette memories of “Martha,” her rigorous demeanor, her abrupt critiques, her searching analyses of his movement, her extreme demands as a partner – and her dire yet lyrical sensuality. The book is built around interviews skillfully and subtly conducted by Paul Jackson, principal lecturer in Choreography and Dance at the University of Winchester, UK.

By Paul R. W. Jackson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Last Guru as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Robert Cohan is part of the pantheon of American contemporary choreographers which includes Alvin Ailey and Paul Taylor. Like them he follows in the tradition of their teacher Martha Graham whose works were grounded in finding through dance a way to express the human condition, in all its forms. This he has done in over fifty works, from early solos and duets to large group works which have been performed by contemporary and ballet companies around the world. A distinguished teacher, choreographer and advocate for dance, he has shaped the lives of generations of dance artists. Robert Cohan joined the…


Book cover of My Body, the Buddhist

Neil Baldwin Author Of Martha Graham: When Dance Became Modern

From my list on dance and dancing.

Why am I passionate about this?

The most important words of advice my incisive editor at Knopf, Victoria Wilson, gave me while I was laboring upon my biography of Martha Graham – coming out in October, you can pre-order it now – was to say that “she was not a goddess, and you don’t want to worship her.” Yes, I had the nerve to take on this formidable and forbidding figure as a result of bearing witness to her anti-War masterwork, Chronicle, on a winter evening fourteen years ago. Yes, I believed that modern dance was the missing link in my long exploration of American modernism. And yes, I believe that I have proven my point, painting Martha Graham’s portrait as a person – rather than an icon.

Neil's book list on dance and dancing

Neil Baldwin Why did Neil love this book?

In the fall of 2016, Deborah Hay came to the Montclair State University campus, where I was professor of theatre & dance, to stage her new work, "Figure a Sea," performed by the Cullberg Ballet of Sweden and featuring the music composition of Laurie Anderson. During her time in residence at the university, I talked with Deborah at the Kasser Theatre about her life and work. Hay was one of the founders of the postmodern Judson Dance Theatre in NYC in the early 1960s and she has pursued an iconoclastic, independent, headstrong, and mystical path ever since, which is why I loved chatting with her so much. Her appeal as a teacher in the studio with our students was equally shape-shifting and mind-bending. And this book creates the same ambiance in the reader’s head – it is a synthesis of memoir and physicalized ‘auto-body-ography,’ to subvert the term!…

By Deborah Hay,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked My Body, the Buddhist as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Through a series of imaginative approaches to movement and performance, choreographer Deborah Hay presents a profound reflection on the ephemeral nature of the self and the body as the locus of artistic consciousness. Using the same uniquely playful poetics of her revolutionary choreography, she delivers one of the most revealing accounts of what art creation entails and the ways in which the body, the center of our aesthetic knowledge of the world, can be regarded as our most informed teacher.

My Body, The Buddhist becomes a way into Hay's choreographic techniques, a gloss on her philosophy of the body (which…


Book cover of The Ecstasy of Being: Mythology and Dance

Neil Baldwin Author Of Martha Graham: When Dance Became Modern

From my list on dance and dancing.

Why am I passionate about this?

The most important words of advice my incisive editor at Knopf, Victoria Wilson, gave me while I was laboring upon my biography of Martha Graham – coming out in October, you can pre-order it now – was to say that “she was not a goddess, and you don’t want to worship her.” Yes, I had the nerve to take on this formidable and forbidding figure as a result of bearing witness to her anti-War masterwork, Chronicle, on a winter evening fourteen years ago. Yes, I believed that modern dance was the missing link in my long exploration of American modernism. And yes, I believe that I have proven my point, painting Martha Graham’s portrait as a person – rather than an icon.

Neil's book list on dance and dancing

Neil Baldwin Why did Neil love this book?

I am sure many of you already know this visionary philosopher from his ground-breaking The Hero With a Thousand Faces. You may not be aware that Campbell was married to Jean Erdman, one of Martha Graham’s principal dancers in the ‘30s and ‘40s. Campbell’s initiations to modern dance came at Sarah Lawrence College when witnessing Erdman as Graham’s student; and then at Bennington, where Erdman performed with Graham’s company. His own learned background in the archetypal ethos of C.G. Jung made Campbell a prime candidate for Graham’s deeply-digging, Nietzschean/ecstatic archaic/abstract movement vocabulary. The choreographer and the professor spoke the same kinaesthetic language, Erdman remembered. There were many late nights when “Martha would call Joe on the phone” with some arcane question about her mythographic pieces in progress – Night Journey and Errand into the Maze. Many of Campbell’s essays in this book were first published in Dance Observer…

By Joseph Campbell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Ecstasy of Being as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Joseph Campbell’s collected writings on dance and art, edited and introduced by Nancy Allison, CMA, the founder of Jean Erdman Dance, and including Campbell’s unpublished manuscript “Mythology and Form in the Performing and Visual Arts,” the book he was working on when he died.

Dance was one of mythologist Joseph Campbell’s wide-ranging passions. His wife, Jean Erdman, was a leading figure in modern dance who worked with Martha Graham and had Merce Cunningham in her first company. When Campbell retired from teaching in 1972, he and Erdman formed the Theater of the Open Eye, where for nearly fifteen years they…


Book cover of Murder in Fourth Position: An On Pointe Mystery

Caryl Janis Author Of To Sketch a Killer

From my list on cozy mysteries—with a touch of romance—set in New York.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a musician and writer who has always loved mysteries. Main character-sleuths who are likable and sometimes get in over their heads are my favorites, both as a reader and a writer, especially if they contribute something positive to their world in addition to solving the crime. If their careers or hobbiesanything from the arts to small customer-service businesses – offer joy to themselves and to others, so much the better. Since I grew up in the New York area, I like books that are set there, but am open to a good story set anywhere in the world.

Caryl's book list on cozy mysteries—with a touch of romance—set in New York

Caryl Janis Why did Caryl love this book?

The latest in a series featuring an engaging New York City ballerina/amateur sleuth.

On hiatus from Lincoln Center while her ballet company is on tour, Leah goes undercover as a dancer on Broadway to keep her eyes open for clues into who is harassing the show’s leading lady online. It starts simply enough until murder enters the picture.

I loved the quirky backstage energy, the interplay between the colorful cast of characters, and the many absorbing plot twists. It’s easy to applaud as Leah keeps investigating despite mounting personal danger as well as the anxiety it causes in her romance with the appealing detective on the case.

By Lori Robbins,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Murder in Fourth Position as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Mad Music was the buzziest new show of the upcoming Broadway season, with a hot score, a cool director, and a deadly plot twist no one saw coming. When rumors of a behind-the-scenes disaster surface, ballerina Leah Siderova finds herself with the opportunity of a lifetime: the chance to make her Broadway debut while playing a double role. The producers hope to capitalize on her talent, as well as her devoted fan base, to revive ticket sales. Leah's true reason for abandoning Lincoln Center for the Great White Way is her undercover investigation of online threats against Amber Castle, the…


Book cover of Sidewalks

Matthew Gavin Frank Author Of Flight of the Diamond Smugglers: A Tale of Pigeons, Obsession, and Greed Along Coastal South Africa

From my list on nonfiction featuring amazing flying things.

Why am I passionate about this?

Like many who carry over childish curiosity into adulthood, I'm attracted to forbidden places. I trespass. When I heard that a portion of South Africa’s coast was owned by the De Beers conglomerate and closed to the public for nearly 80 years, plunging the local communities into mysterious isolation, I became obsessed with visiting the place. Afterward, I began studying carrier pigeons—the amazing flying things that folks use to smuggle diamonds out of the mines. I wrote a book about this, Flight of the Diamond Smugglers. I'm also the author of nonfiction books about the first-ever photograph of the giant squid, working on a medical marijuana farm, and American food culture.

Matthew's book list on nonfiction featuring amazing flying things

Matthew Gavin Frank Why did Matthew love this book?

Valeria Luiselli dissects the odd systems and networks of our world’s cities and reveals in their hidden corners and corridors strange and magical identities. Luiselli’s essays further interrogate a city’s relationship to the bodies, cultures, artifacts, and languages that inhabit its spaces. In the essay, “Flying Home,” Luiselli journeys to Mexico City, the place of her birth, and, staring out of her airplane window, considers the city’s layout from this great height. This act of “mapping” according to her extraordinary vantage (suspended in flight), allows for a greater, incantatory meditation on our various perceptions of “home,” and how said perceptions depend as much on the imagination and on ephemeral memories as they do on reality.   

By Valeria Luiselli, Christina Macsweeney (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sidewalks as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Luiselli's essays (originally published in Mexico) have been released to great acclaim abroad and has been translated for and published in the UK, Italy, Germany, and The Netherlands
Alma Guillermoprieto called Luiselli "one of the most important new voices in Mexican writing" at BEA and Luiselli is similarly known to and beloved by Latin American writers and venues including PEN America, the Americas Society, and the Mexican Cultural Institute
Luiselli's work is well known to bilingual Spanish language readers (including invitations to appear at Instituto Cervantes in Chicago and the Spanish language bookclub at McNally Jackson)
Luiselli is an engaging…


Book cover of A Very Young Dancer

T. Greenwood Author Of The Still Point

From my list on both the darkness and beauty of ballet.

Why am I passionate about this?

When my daughter was three years old, I enrolled her in a “creative movement” class. I had taken dance lessons for ten years when I was younger, so this felt like an obvious choice. At age eleven, her teacher suggested that she had the facility, talent, and drive to pursue a career in ballet. What followed was seven years of being a “ballet mom,” as she studied, performed, competed, and ultimately left home to pursue her career. The Still Point comes from this experience. It's a novel about dark ambition, but it's also a love letter: to my daughter, to ballet, and to the mothers who became my closest friends inside the ballet studio walls.

T.'s book list on both the darkness and beauty of ballet

T. Greenwood Why did T. love this book?

This book! I received this gorgeous black and white photobook as a gift when I was an aspiring dancer myself in the 1970s.

I was obsessed with the story of a young girl cast as Marie in the New York City Ballet’s Nutcracker. The story is told primarily through Krementz’s photos of a young dancer’s life in New York City: ballet classes, auditions, rehearsals, backstage moments, and performances.

This book is one of the most magical and special books of my childhood – which appealed to me as a dancer back then but later heavily influenced my work as a photographer as an adult.

By Jill Krementz,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Very Young Dancer as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 9, 10, 11, and 12.

What is this book about?

A ten-year-old student at the School of American Ballet in New York describes her classes and the preparation for and performance of her role in the ballet "The Nutcracker."


Book cover of The View From Breast Pocket Mountain

Suzanne Kamata Author Of Squeaky Wheels: Travels with My Daughter by Train, Plane, Metro, Tuk-tuk and Wheelchair

From my list on memoirs by foreigners in Japan.

Why am I passionate about this?

Japan is endlessly fascinating. Many foreigners who have spent a year or two engaging with Japanese culture have published memoirs. But there are also many who have lived here longer, perhaps marrying and raising families and retiring in Japan. The stories of long-term foreign residents dig deep into the culture and share unique challenges and triumphs. My own memoir, Squeaky Wheels is about my experience raising a biracial daughter who is deaf and has cerebral palsy in off-the-beaten-track Japan. It also details our mother-daughter travels around Japan, to the United States, and ultimately to Paris. It is ultimately a story of my attempt to open the world to my daughter.

Suzanne's book list on memoirs by foreigners in Japan

Suzanne Kamata Why did Suzanne love this book?

Anton, a former columnist for The Japan Times, grew up in New York City, one of three children raised solely by an African American father. (Her mother was institutionalized due to mental illness.) She studied dance with Martha Graham, modeled for the pages of LOOK magazine at a time when African American models were few and far between, and copy-edited for Joseph Heller. Later, she traveled to Europe where she met Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton when she interviewed to be their house-sitter in Gstaad, fell in love and gave birth in Denmark, then later journeyed overland from Europe to Asia with her childhood friend and future husband, Billy. Any one chapter of her life could have been the basis for an entire book. Anton is an engaging storyteller with an exceptional story -- an unbeatable combination. I highly recommend this memoir to anyone interested in Japan, multicultural families,…

By Karen Hill Anton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The View From Breast Pocket Mountain as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

GRAND PRIZE Winner 2022 Memoir Prize
GOLD PRIZE Winner SPR Book Awards (2020)
Book Readers Appreciation Group (B.R.A.G.) MEDALLION (2021)

Crossing Borders and Cultures, Creating Home
The View From Breast Pocket Mountain is a unique and previously untold story, a treasure trove of experiences crossing borders and cultures, creating a life, and finding contentment in a far-off country.

To those who've ever wondered what their lives would be if they'd taken that road without a map, this is the book you need to read. The View From Breast Pocket Mountain gives us a glimpse of a life not designed or…


Book cover of Mister B. Gone

David Yurkovich Author Of Glass Onion

From my list on reads that stick with you long after you finish.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a writer, editor, and publisher. As a child in the 1970s, I first discovered a taste for adventure stories in the pages of Marvel comics. This lead to a wider interest in fiction, particularly sci-fi, horror, and adventure tales. I believe one of the basic tenets to becoming a good writer is to read…a lot. I gravitate toward well-known but also lesser-known stories. My main criteria: is the writing engaging, does it inspire me to keep reading? As a writer, I ask myself these same questions about my work. The titles in this list are among the benchmarks I aim for when writing and editing. 

David's book list on reads that stick with you long after you finish

David Yurkovich Why did David love this book?

Clive Barker’s 2007 novel is the sort of book that, as soon as you read the first page, you know you’ve found something special.

The narrator is a demon named Jakabok Botch who desperately wants you, the reader, to burn the book you’re reading. Throughout these pleas we learn about Jakabok’s history, beginning with his childhood in Hell, how he was pulled into the human world in the fourteenth century, and his many exploits since.

What really elevates this book from good to great is the first-person narrative. Barker does an exquisite job in giving a wholly original voice to his demon. Barker has described the novel as, “a different kind of scare, very brutal and very intimate,” and he isn’t exaggerating.

Mister B. Gone is a quick read, especially by Barker standards, but one that’s well worth your time and will have you reflecting upon long after you’ve finished…

By Clive Barker,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mister B. Gone as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The long-awaited return of the great master of horror. Mister B. Gone is Barker's shockingly bone-chilling discovery of a never-before-published demonic 'memoir' penned in the year 1438, when it was printed - one copy only - and then buried until now by an assistant who worked for the inventor of the printing press, Johannes Gutenberg.

This bone-chilling novel, in which a medieval devil speaks directly to his reader-his tone murderous one moment, seductive the next-is a never-before-published memoir allegedly penned in the year 1438.

The demon has embedded himself in the very words of this tale of terror, turning the…


Book cover of The New York Stories

Scott Brooks Author Of And There We Were and Here We Are

From my list on if you love old black-and-white movies.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a New Yorker with a background in the performing arts. Though a lifelong reader and bookstore loiterer, my early writing career was focused on the stage as well as the pursuit of a career in screenwriting. This led to many years writing and producing theatre as well as working in film and TV both as a writer and in production. The books I've chosen, I feel influenced the American language in the last century, an influence reflected in the tone of the novels and films from that period described by scholars as “Between the Wars.” It's a period that fascinates me for it exists now only in books and movies and is therein preserved.

Scott's book list on if you love old black-and-white movies

Scott Brooks Why did Scott love this book?

John O’Hara’s name should be spoken in the same breath as Fitzgerald, Steinbeck, and Hemingway. Maybe it isn’t, because he never had that one homerun book that stood out in the canon, like a Gatsby or a Grapes of Wrath. Though I think Butterfield 8 and Appointment in Samara stand up to either of the above, I have chosen this collection of short stories. He wrote more short stories for the New Yorker than anyone ever did and is credited with inventing that particular style that the periodical became known for. Each of these stories – all short and fast as an uppercut – shows the flawed humanity striving in the city from the 30s to the 60s – from ad men to secretaries, to bums and soda jerks. With his trademark crackling dialogue, this collection of gritty Americana will leave you feeling like you are standing in an…

By John O'Hara,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The New York Stories as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Superb... These thirty-two stories inhabit the Technicolor vernaculars of taxi drivers, barbers, paper pushers and society matrons... O'Hara was American fiction's greatest eavesdropper, recording the everyday speech and tone of all strata of mid-century society' Wall Street Journal

John O'Hara remains the great chronicler of American society, and nowhere are his powers more evident than in his portraits of New York's so-called Golden Age. Unsparingly observed, brilliantly cutting and always on the tragic edge of epiphany, the stories collected here are among O'Hara's finest work, and show why he still stands as the most-published short story writer in the history…


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