I love reading anytime I have some spare time. There’s nothing better than having a book between the hands and a warm blanket on top. Actually, there is something better: having a good ballet book! If you enjoy reading too, here’s a collection of dancers’ biographies that you’ll love.

Natalia Makarova – A dance autobiography (by Natalia Makarova)

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“To execute a step and to dance a step. The opposition of these two concepts contains the entire history of the classical dance”

Natalia Makarova

Natalia Makarova has been one of my greatest influences and role models, not only for her dancing, but especially for her personality. In her autobiography, filled with beautiful pictures, Makarova begins with her childhood in Russia and takes us up to the peaks of her career as a ballerina. She extensively talks about the spirituality and intellectuality of dance, about her difficulties and personal opinions. A very inspiring story for any dancer.

Rudolf Nureyev – The life (by Julie Kavanagh)

“The sound of their wheels — the first lessons in rhythm, instilled in him from birth — gave him a subliminal thrill he later learned to exploit”

Does this book even need an introduction? So far, the richest and most complete biography of Rudolf Nureyev. It guides the reader through the life of Nureyev, revealing the hidden anecdotes and describing each event so precisely that it becomes easy to imagine the story. I totally recommend this book!

Twyla Tharp – Push comes to Shove (by Twyla Tharp)

“Finally I can feel that my attempts to discover truth through objective distance have linked up with my gut”

I had no idea who Twyla Tharp was until I saw her choreography “In the Upper Room” and I loved it. I later found out that Tharp also choreographed the famous dance in the movie “White Nights” for Michail Baryshnikov and Gregory Hines and many more masterpieces. Curious as I am, I looked for more information on who Twyla Tharp was and I found a long list of books written by her. In this autobiography, you can find every little detail of Twyla Tharp’s life.

Gelsey Kirkland – Dancing on my grave (by Gelsey Kirkland)

“To speak through the dance, to articulate something beyond the steps, was the precise art for which I struggled” - As a young dancer fascinated by Gelsey Kirkland’s dance clips on YouTube, I could have never known about the terrible struggles she was going through while dancing so beautifully on stage. Gelsey opened up about her experience with the ugly side of the dance industry. This book might be tough to digest: sometimes we like to believe that such things only happen in movies. Well, it’s not always true...

“To speak through the dance, to articulate something beyond the steps, was the precise art for which I struggled”

As a young dancer fascinated by Gelsey Kirkland’s dance clips on YouTube, I could have never known about the terrible struggles she was going through while dancing so beautifully on stage. Gelsey opened up about her experience with the ugly side of the dance industry. This book might be tough to digest: sometimes we like to believe that such things only happen in movies. Well, it’s not always true…

Jerome Robbins – Dance with Demons (by Greg Lawrence)

“What he did that was so unusual [was] that he choreographed for character. He choreographed the way a writer writes”

Who is the man behind breathtaking choreographies, such as “Fancy Free” and “Other dances”? I’ve always loved watching Jerome Robbins’ creations, but I had no clue about who he was. This biography is very well written: it does not take any part in the story but simply describes Robbins as he was, trying to understand him without criticizing and without influencing the reader.

Alicia Markova – The making of Markova (by Tina Sutton)

“Markova had to overcome poverty, sexist, anti-Semitism, and not being considered ‘pretty’ enough to succeed” - Since the very first few pages of this book, I got captivated by the incredible story of Dame Alicia Markova. I’ve always known how important of a figure she has been in the ballet world, but finding out why thanks to her beautifully written biography was fascinating and enriching. Alicia Markova is now someone I look up to and strongly admire. The title could not describe the main message I got from this book any better: dancers are made, not born.

“Markova had to overcome poverty, sexist, anti-Semitism, and not being considered ‘pretty’ enough to succeed”

Since the very first few pages of this book, I got captivated by the incredible story of Dame Alicia Markova. I’ve always known how important of a figure she has been in the ballet world, but finding out why thanks to her beautifully written biography was fascinating and enriching. Alicia Markova is now someone I look up to and strongly admire. The title could not describe the main message I got from this book any better: dancers are made, not born.

Robert Battle – My Story, my Dance (by Lesa Cline-Ransom)

“Dance is a metaphor for how we get through life. It's about timing, it's about daring, it's about grace, it's about intensity, it's about overcoming difficult steps - but then, finally, it's about finding joy” - A story of passion, faith and determination. This book brings the reader through the rough beginnings of Robert Battle’s life up to his greatest achievements as a dancer, choreographer and director of the company that made him want to pursue dance as his career. Learning about Battle’s story helped me believe more in myself and my dream. I recommend this book to anyone, especially to young dancers in training.

“Dance is a metaphor for how we get through life. It’s about timing, it’s about daring, it’s about grace, it’s about intensity, it’s about overcoming difficult steps – but then, finally, it’s about finding joy”

A story of passion, faith and determination. This book brings the reader through the rough beginnings of Robert Battle’s life up to his greatest achievements as a dancer, choreographer and director of the company that made him want to pursue dance as his career. Learning about Battle’s story helped me believe more in myself and my dream. I recommend this book to anyone, especially to young dancers in training.

Alexandra Danilova – Choura (by Alexandra Danilova)

“I gave one hundred percent of myself to my art, and my art has repaid me” - Reading this autobiography gave me the impression of scrolling through the pages of Alexandra Danilova’s personal diary. A book filled with interesting remarks on dance and life, precious pieces of advice and various anecdotes. One of the lessons that I remember the most from this book is: dress up in style, even if you’re going out to do the laundry. 

“I gave one hundred percent of myself to my art, and my art has repaid me”

Reading this autobiography gave me the impression of scrolling through the pages of Alexandra Danilova’s personal diary. A book filled with interesting remarks on dance and life, precious pieces of advice and various anecdotes. One of the lessons that I remember the most from this book is: dress up in style, even if you’re going out to do the laundry.

What is your favorite dance biography? Have you read any of the books on this list? Let me know! I can’t wait to read your answers!