Black Ballerinas: My Journey to Our Legacy
Illustrated by Salena Barnes
Published November 2, 2021
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About Black Ballerinas
As a young girl living in a motel with her mother and her five siblings, Misty Copeland didn’t have a lot of exposure to ballet or prominent dancers. She was sixteen when she saw a black ballerina on a magazine cover for the first time. The experience emboldened Misty and told her that she wasn’t alone—and her dream wasn’t impossible.
In the years since, Misty has only learned more about the trailblazing women who made her own success possible by pushing back against repression and racism with their talent and tenacity. Misty brings these women’s stories to a new generation of readers and gives them the recognition they deserve.
With an introduction from Misty about the legacy these women have had on dance and on her career itself, this book delves into the lives and careers of women of color who fundamentally changed the landscape of American ballet from the early 20th century to today.
From New York Times bestselling and award-winning author and American Ballet Theatre principal dancer Misty Copeland comes an illustrated nonfiction collection celebrating dancers of color who have influenced her on and off the stage.
One of the things I love about this book is that Misty Copeland talks about how she encountered the story of each dancer she profiles. Sometimes those stories include meeting her in person, and other times how she learned of their history and what it meant to her to discover it. Always, she includes biographical information about each woman and her career as a dancer as well as challenges she faced and how she responded to or overcame them.
At first I thought the book would simply be profiles of dancers of color, each page being a biography of a different dancer’s life. I think connecting them to Copeland’s personal experience really helped paint a picture of the dance world as a whole and how some things have evolved. It also showed areas where harmful prejudices still exist for dancers of color today, which is really important.
I loved the beautiful drawings of each dancer and the descriptions of their dance styles or the memorable roles they’ve played. I want to go back through the book and search for video clips of the dancers profiled in BLACK BALLERINAS so that I can hopefully see some of those incredible performances.
All in all, I highly recommend this book for dance fans and readers interested in women’s history.
Recommended for Ages 10 up.
This book tells the story of women of color and their careers in the professional dance world.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Some brief mentions of racism and colorism.
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