5 Books by Male Ballet Dancers

Autobiographies by male ballet dancers.

Although we have read several autobiographies by ballerinas in Ballet Book Club, we have yet to read and discuss a male voice. Well, it's time to change that! Here are five autobiographies by male ballet dancers...

#1) David Hallberg's A Body of Work

David Hallberg, whose dance career began with American Ballet Theatre in 2001, is most notably recognized as the first American dancer to become a principal with the Bolshoi Ballet.

Hallberg’s memoir A Body of Work follows his life from being bullied as a child through his entire professional dance career.

From his teen years studying at the Paris Opera Ballet to his first company position with American Ballet Theatre to his time at the Bolshoi — and ultimately to the ankle injury and botched surgery that forever changed his career — this book offers a thorough self-portrait of an artist and a rare glimpse into the heart and mind of a dancer.

#2) Jack Soto's Every Step You Take

Jack Soto shares how, throughout his illustrious career, he navigates the often overwhelmingly straight and white ballet world as a half Puerto-Rican, half Navajo gay man.

Every Step You Take begins with Soto’s retirement from NYCB in 2005 and continues as he seeks to learn more about his Navajo roots. He also tells about his humble beginnings in New York City, when he supported himself, alone, at the age of fourteen.

He shares recipes throughout the book to mark important moments in his life — a poignant choice for anyone who has ever associated a smell or taste with a memory.

#3) Carlos Acosta's No Way Home

Now director of the Royal Birmingham Ballet, Carlos Acosta danced with many companies throughout his career, including: English National Ballet, National Ballet of Cuba, Houston Ballet, and Royal Ballet.

As a young boy in Cuba, Acosta dreams of being a famous soccer player, but after skipping school and revealing a rebellious streak, his father enrolls him in a rigorous ballet academy, to occupy his days and keep him out of trouble.

Costa quickly excels in ballet, winning competitions and impressing judges. He leaves Cuba to pursue his dance career, and No Way Home grapples with concepts such as loneliness and the meaning of home. It also touches on Costa’s complicated relationship with his father, the stereotypes he faced as a Black, Cuban man in the dance world, and the strength he had to persevere through it all.

#4) Edward Villella's Prodigal Son

As a young boy in the Queens borough of New York City, Villella is forced to take ballet with his sister and unexpectedly discovers a lifelong passion. But when his father disapproves of his pursuit of ballet, Villella earns a college degree instead of dancing full-time.

But he can’t deny his true calling for long, and almost immediately after college, Villella joins New York City Ballet, where he dances for two decades.

Prodigal Son focuses on Villella’s relationship with famed choreographer George Balanchine, and in many ways, the book is a love letter written to celebrate the unique Balanchine style. After his professional dance career, Villella went on to found the Miami City Ballet.

#5) Jacques d'Amboise's I was a Dancer

Jacques d’Amboise joined NYCB in 1949 and danced with the company for more than three decades. He began his training at the School of American Ballet at the age of eight, meaning he spent his lifetime dancing for George Balanchine’s school and company.

Balanchine choreographed many famous works on d’Amboise, and d’Amboise partnered with many of Balanchine’s muses.

I Was A Dancer features many anecdotes about famous individuals from NYCB, including Maria Tallchief, Diana Adams, Allegra Kent, and Gelsey Kirkland, to name a few. D’Amboise also shares details of his close, personal work with Balanchine. And he even shares his experiences with film — he played the role of Ephraim Pontipee in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.