Work out your brain with a good book (or two).


Dancers and books?   We’re focused on working out our bodies, not our intellect, right?  WRONG.  You should be reading!

I. Love. Books.  I confess that I feel slightly anxious if I don’t have a book in my house to read.  In my opinion there are few things better than the combo of a couch, a blanket, and a good book (with the possible addition of some dark chocolate to be consumed while reading, on the couch, under the blanket).  Reading helps you take your mind off the intense cold of that ice pack on your sore ankle/knee/back.  Reading enriches your life, gives you perspective, helps keep you healthy.  Here are a few dancer-centric reads that get my personal stamp of approval.

The Cranes Dance, by Meg Howrey

I read this recently and couldn’t put it down.  The main character is a soloist in a NYC ballet company, and there’s lots of interesting “insider” bits relating to that, but it’s also a fully formed novel about relationships (particularly those between sisters),  family, and the expectations/pressures we put on ourselves.  The author balances intense material with dark humor for a really interesting read.  It’s one of those books that you pick up again after you’ve finished it so you can revisit and re-experience what’s happened.


Soaring: the diary and letters of a Denishawn dancer in the Far East, 1925-1926, by Jane Sherman

This is a wonderful book about the Denishawn company’s tour of the far east in the 20s.  Denishawn was started by Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn, and has been described as the “fountainhead” of modern dance-Doris Humphrey and Martha Graham studied at the Denishawn school and were members of the company.  Author Jane Sherman was one of the original Denishawn dancers (she recently passed away at the age of 100!) and her diary and letters are fascinating, revealing what it was like to tour as a dancer with little or none of what would now be considered essential.    I loved reading about St. Denis and Shawn, who innocently borrowed from Eastern ethnic dances for their choreography, never knowing (until performing in those regions) that they were usually performed by less than savory citizens (ie, prostitutes).  A little hard to find but worth searching out.

The Dancer’s Way: The New York City Ballet Guide to Mind, Body, and Nutrition, by Linda H. Hamilton

Full discosure here-I have only read parts of this book, but it’s so full of good information that I couldn’t resist including it, even though I haven’t read it all the way through (yet).  Author (and ex-dancer) Linda Hamilton helped design the wellness program at the NYCB , with the goal of helping dancers reach their potential without compromising their health.  This book looks to be a great resource to keep your body and mind healthy.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a book to get back to…