Book Learning – 1st Review

It’s Friday, class is tomorrow, and it’s the perfect time for a ballet book report.

The Joffrey Ballet School’s Book of Ballet-Fit
Author: Dena Moss
272 Pages
Copyright 1999

Reason for purchase: I was hooked on this book after reading a few excerpts with Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature. The author targets the hesitant adult beginner and it appeared to be just what I wanted.

– Author’s Note: Who is the Adult Beginner?
– Introduction: Adults can’t really learn ballet, can they?
– Chp 1: From barbells to ballet slippers: If you’re considering a ballet class read this first
– Chp 2: Starting out: What to expect and why
– Chp 3: Getting Physical
– Chp 4: Let’s Get Dressed
– Chp 5: The Language of Ballet
– Chp 6: Basic Barre and Center
– Chp 7: Putting it All Together: The Ballet Fit Workout
– Chp 8: Pointe Work: How far can the adult beginner go?
– Chp 9: Answers to commonly asked adult ballet questions

Personal Impression: I selected this book for my first book report because it really is a good resource, but the book loses almost all of its value if it’s not read early on in the reader’s ballet progression. The book is great at addressing many of the fears and concerns an adult beginner may have regarding their first class. It introduces terminology, basic positions, and movements. Too much time is spent trying to convince the reader of the benefits of ballet and of taking classes, which seems to be a waste since you would probably not need that much convincing if you are already interested enough to read or buy this book.

I only wish I read the chapter on apparel before I bought some of my clothes. The advice is very practical regarding shoes, tights, leotards, etc. When I bought my shoes, I purchased several sizes from Zappos not knowing which would fit best. Fortunately return shipping is FREE!!! I was also under the impression that it would be cool to have a black pair of shoes and a pair of pink shoes. Who doesn’t like more shoes, right?? Found out that for the most part, everyone wears pink. I have not seen a pair of black shoes on a girl or woman in my classes yet. Just men. This book would have told me that and saved me the $20 spent on those black Bloch slippers. Of course being my usual impatient Ballet Nerd self, I immediately cut the elastics that cinch the shoe around my foot. Returning those shoes is no longer an option. I also ran into issues with the color of my tights – purchasing several pairs of black tights with the assumption that I would wear them with the black shoes. NOPE – Wrong again. I have only worn the pink shoes and pink tights. I do thank this book, because I was able to read up on these issues and avoid showing up to class in a ridiculous ensemble, such as pink shoes and black footed tights saving boat loads of embarrassment. The author kindly points out the little differences that would single you out as a ballet square and how to prevent them. Few other books have been as specific on the subject of apparel advice. Most just tell the reader that leotards and shoes in black and pink are fine. Haha – in my case I needed the specific advice as to what exactly is supposed to be black and what is pink. Oh and convertible black tights are ok – it is just the unattractive line of the footed black tights going into the pink shoe with pink elastics further breaking the sleek line of the leg.

The section on technique introduces a beginner to the terminology so they are familiar with the positions and a few steps before their first class; however, since I had already attended a few classes I found I was looking for more thorough technique information. It is a great primer for before the FIRST class and will increase the reader’s overall comfort level with ballet in general. After the first couple classes, more advanced reading material is needed and I recommend Classical Ballet Technique by Gretchen Ward Warren. It is the gold standard in my mind and a point of comparison for all technique books.

I also did not spend a lot of time reading the ballet fit section in detail (Chp 7). This could be a good reference for stretching and some home exercises to practice between classes. Initially, I was put off by the title of the book thinking that the focus would only be on a ballet-fit / pilates approach and not delve into the details of taking a real ballet class.

Finally, I found that many of the answers to frequent questions addressed in Chp 9 did not apply to me. I was already interested in ballet and did not need convincing of the benefits or did not have the same concerns – primarily as I had already been to a few classes. Again, that might be a different story if the readers has this book prior to their first class. Sorry for the repeat- I feel like a broken record, but with this book I believe I need to emphasize the time frame for when it is most beneficial.


2 responses to “Book Learning – 1st Review

  1. We’re getting arty-choked! Bring it!!!

  2. I like the pink shoes/black tights look! Seems somehow kinda olde-timey looking.
    Never seen any female ballet student in black slippers either. Wonder how much it would cost to take those suckers to a shoe repair place and have them soled? Then you’d have some For Real ballet flats.

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