January 2017 | Page Turners


Books of note (new and not)

Eight Female Classical Ballet Variations
By Nina Danilova
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Price: $39.95
288 pages; paperback; 2016

From the graceful flutter of Princess Florine at Sleeping Beauty’s wedding to the playful jetés in the first act of Giselle, the variation is one of classical ballet’s key elements. Arguing that artistry requires in-depth knowledge, the author presents eight foundational variations in the ballerina’s repertoire, including for each a piano reduction of the score; contextual notes on history, plot, and memorable interpreters of the role; and step-by-step illustrated instructions for dancing the variation.

Little Sap and Monsieur Rodin
Written by Michelle Lord and illustrated by Felicia Hoshino
Publisher: Lee & Low Books
Price: $9.95
32 pages; ages 6–10; hardcover; 2006

A fictionalized tale based on true events. It’s 1906 and Little Sap, a former country girl who is one of the court dancers in the Cambodian royal palace, is anxious about traveling to faraway France. After the troupe arrives in Paris, artist Auguste Rodin becomes captivated by the beauty of Cambodian dance. He makes many sketches of the dancers, especially Little Sap, whose worries melt away as she realizes how much she has grown as a dancer.

José! Born to Dance
Written by Susanna Reich and illustrated by Raúl Colón
Publisher: Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books
Price: $17.99
32 pages; ages 5–8; hardcover; 2005 

This picture book biography tells the story of a giant of American modern dance. Born in Mexico in 1908, José Limón loved to draw, play the piano, and dream—but dance lit a fire in his soul. He traveled to New York City to dance; there he learned to flow and float and fly through space. He went on to choreograph, lead a company, create a new technique, and tour the world to acclaim.

Swing Time
By Zadie Smith
Publisher: Penguin Press
Price: $27
464 pages; hardcover; 2016

This ambitious, exuberant new novel from Smith (White Teeth) travels from northwest London to West Africa to examine race, class, and friendship. The narrator and her friend Tracey, the only black girls in their dance class, dream of being dancers—but only Tracey has dance talent. When they reach their early 20s, however, their close, complicated friendship ends abruptly. Tracey becomes a professional dancer but never makes it out of the chorus line or the neighborhood. The narrator does get out of the neighborhood to travel the world assisting a famous singer. Who the real success is—indeed, what success means—remains unclear.