Tutus and Tap Shoes: Books for National Dance Week
If you have a budding ballerina or Broadway performer in your life, or just enjoy the art of dance, National Dance Week is a special week just for you and your family! Established in 1981, National Dance Week (April 22-May 1) promotes dance education in schools and expands community awareness of the fun of dance. Dance comes in many forms and is celebrated across many cultures, as is evidenced by these outstanding books for children:
Andrea Davis Pinkney’s and Brian Pinkney’s picture book biography of Alvin Ailey, who founded the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater to bring an African-American perspective to modern dance, is a vibrant and intriguing look at this dance pioneer. Ballerina Dreams is a sweet and inspiring look at five children who learn ballet in spite of their physical disabilities.
Young independent readers should definitely read Ballerina Dreams: From Orphan to Dancer for its eye-opening look at ballerina Michaela dePrince, who was adopted from Sierra Leone as a young child and made her way to the top of the ballet world, despite battling issues with vitiligo (a skin condition that causes depigmentation). Older readers might be interested in her YA memoir, Taking Flight: From War Orphan to Star Ballerina.
You’ve undoubtedly heard snippets of Appalachian Spring in commercials and other media, but do you know the creation of this uniquely American composition and ballet? Modern dance pioneer Martha Graham and composer Aaron Copland created a ballet with a distinctly American theme, unlike the classic ballets that told stories of European fairy tales and stories. Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring tells the story of this famed partnership and dance, which celebrates the American pioneers of the 19th century.
Through the perspective of a young African-American daughter of a ballet company’s seamstress, A Dance Like Starlight: One Ballerina’s Dream introduces readers to Janet Collins, the first African-American prima ballerina. This is a beautiful and joyous tribute to a young girl’s heroine.
Emma and Julia Love Ballet is already one of my favorite picture books of 2016. Written and illustrated by picture book master Barbara McClintock, this follows a young dancer and a professional ballerina as they take classes at the same ballet school and prepare for a special night at the ballet. The fact that Emma is Caucasian and Julia is African-American is not a point of discussion in the story; this is just a charming and gorgeous story about an aspiring dancer and the ballerina she admires.
One of the best (and authentic) Native American picture books in our collection is Jingle Dancer, which follows a young member of the Muscogee/Creek nation as she prepares for her jingle dance performance at an upcoming powwow. An author’s note includes further information about the jingle dance and the special clothes worn by the dancer.
Lion Dancer: Ernie Wan’s Chinese New Year also features a young dancer, Ernie, as he practices his lion dance for the Chinese New Year celebrations.
If you’ve seen Shirley Temple movies, then you’re already familiar with the great tap dancer, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, who was her dancing partner in many movies. Rap a Tap Tap–Here’s Bojangles–Think of That is a joyous and rhythmic salute to one of the greatest tap dancers of all time (but without touching on the injustices he faced during his lifetime). Consider this for a dance-themed story time.
With so many picture books only featuring grandparents if they are incapacitated or dying, Song and Dance Man remains one of my favorite picture books featuring grandparents. Although today’s children will not have a grandparent who performed in vaudeville (this won the 1989 Caldecott medal), they will still delight in this loving, active, and fun grandfather who recreates his adventures on the stage for his grandchildren.
Tallchief: America’s Prima Ballerina is a brilliantly illustrated and told picture book biography of the childhood and career of Maria Tallchief, the first Native American prima ballerina. Starting with her childhood on an Osage reservation, this is a humbling and memorable story of one of the ballet world’s greatest dancers.
As you can see, dance is enjoyed and performed by people of all ages and backgrounds; check out one of these remarkable books when you next stop by the library!
Looking for more program highlights and staff suggestions for children and young adult readers? Make Kiddosphere your source for all the latest on what to read and what to do for kids!
Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library