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Find Your Inner Child With These 6 New Dance Books for Kids

Jill Randall

Whether you're getting a head start on holiday shopping, seeking books to add to your curriculum or studio lobby, or entertaining a young dancer at home, 2020 has been a banner year for dance-focused children's books.

Dance Teacher rounded up six of the most exciting—from the origin story of ballet's biggest star to celebrations of boys dancing to breaking down dances from around the world. (Bonus: Several are available in audiobook and/or video form!)


By Misty Copeland and illustrator Setor Fiadzigbey

32 pages; G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers (2020)

American Ballet Theatre principal dancer Misty Copeland's latest children's book, Bunheads, is a biographical story of a young Misty. (Her previous children's book, Firebird, came out in 2014.) Told in third person, Copeland shares the story of her first dance class, her experience auditioning for a role in Coppélia as a child and earning the role as Swanilda, and her friendship with a classmate named Cat.

A delightful picture book for aspiring dancers in preschool and elementary school, Bunheads captures Copeland's instant love and curiosity for dance.

Welcome to Ballet School

By Ashley Bouder and illustrator Julia Bereciartu

64 pages; Frances Lincoln Children's Books (2020)

New York City Ballet principal dancer Ashley Bouder begins her new picture book with a letter to the reader, sharing that the story is based on her own childhood and studying with her beloved teacher Marcia Dale Weary.

Bereciartu's illustrations highlight a diverse group of young students experiencing their first ballet class. Geared towards dancers in the 3-to-7 age range, students learn the basic positions of ballet and then hear a bit about the classic story of Sleeping Beauty.

Boys Dance! (presented by American Ballet Theatre)

By John Robert Allman and illustrated by Luciano Lozano

40 pages; Doubleday Books for Young Readers (2020)

Boys Dance!, which was released as part of a new partnership between Random House and American Ballet Theatre, takes us into an all-boys ballet class. With playful rhyming text, author John Robert Allman explains the basic format of the class and some beginning ballet vocabulary.

The book concludes by highlighting eight male ABT dancers, with photos and short first-person accounts.

Black Boys Dance Too: Darnell Enters a Talent Show

By Jamal Josef and illustrator Adrian Turner

20 pages; Jamal Josef (2020)

Written by dancer Jamal Josef, Black Boys Dance Too: Darnell Enters a Talent Show also explores the journey of an aspiring male dancer—though in this one, protagonist Darnell experiences the all-too-familiar experience of being made fun of for his interest in dance. Eventually, though, preparing for the school's talent show with other boys who want to dance gives Darnell's story a happy ending. Black Boys Dance Too is a sweet and assuring book for kids in preschool to first grade.

Let's Dance!

By Valerie Bolling and illustrator Maine Diaz

32 pages; Boyds Mills Press (2020)

For young ones in preschool and kindergarten, Valerie Bolling's rhyming text explores 10 styles of dance from around the world. Maine Diaz's illustrations depict joyful children performing dances from China, Guinea and India, to name a few.

B is for Ballet: A Dance Alphabet (presented by American Ballet Theatre)

By John Robert Allman and illustrator Rachael Dean

48 pages; Doubleday Books for Young Readers (2020)

American Ballet Theatre and author John Robert Allman ambitiously published two picture books this fall. B is for Ballet uses clever rhyming text for an alphabetical journey through key ballet terms, plus choreographers, dancers and famous ballets.

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Maks and Val Chmerkovskiy. Photo courtesy Dance With Me

Listening to Maks and Val Chmerkovskiy riff together makes it crystal-clear why each has mastered the art of partnering in the ballroom—they've long been doing this dance in real life as brothers and business partners.

Along with their "Dancing with the Stars" pedigree (and a combined three mirror-ball trophies between them), Maks and Val (and their father, Sasha) also run Dance With Me, a dance company hosting six ProAm Dancesport competitions annually and running 14 brick-and-mortar studio locations across the U.S.

Last year, the pair launched an online component, Dance & Co. The online video platform offers beginner through advanced instruction in not only ballroom but an array of other styles, as well as dance fitness classes from HIIT to yoga to strength training. "DWTS" fans will recognize such familiar faces as Peta Murgatroyd, Jenna Johnson, Sharna Burgess and Emma Slater, along with Maks and Val themselves.

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@jayplayimagery, courtesy Kerollis

In the spring of 2012, Barry Kerollis was abruptly forced into treating his career as a small business. Having just moved cross-country to join BalletX, he got injured and was soon let go.

"I'd only ever danced with big companies before," the now-freelance dance-teacher-choreographer-podcaster recalls. "That desperation factor drove me to approach freelancing with a business model and a business plan."

As Kerollis acknowledges, getting the business of you off the ground ("you" as a freelance dance educator, that is) can be filled with unexpected challenges—even for the most seasoned of gigging dancers. But becoming your own CEO can make your work–life balance more sustainable, help you make more money, keep you organized, and get potential employers to offer you more respect and improved working conditions. Here's how to get smart now about branding, finances and other crucial ways to tell the dance world that you mean business.

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Courtesy Oleson

American dance educator Shannon Oleson was teaching recreational ballet and street-dance classes in London when the pandemic hit. As she watched many of her fellow U.S. friends pack up and return home from their international adventures, she made the difficult choice to stick with her students (as well as her own training—she was midway through her MFA at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance).

Despite shutdowns and shelter-in-place orders, she was able to maintain a teaching schedule that kept her working with her dancers through Zoom, as well as lead some private, in-home acro classes following government guidelines. But keeping rec students interested in the face of pandemic fatigue hasn't been easy.

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