Monday, July 20, 2015

Book Review: Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina

Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina
Misty Copeland
Publisher: Scholastic, 2014
Source: Purchased
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I first heard of Misty Copeland a few years ago, but didn't really pay much attention.  Then I saw her in an ad, and then on So You Think You Can Dance.  I was intrigued and when I saw that she had a memoir out, I knew I would read it.  It was on my summer reading list when it was announced earlier this month that Misty Copeland had been promoted to principal dancer with the American Ballet Theater--something that had not been accomplished by an African American ballerina up until this point.  Well I moved her memoir up in my list almost immediately.

Most stories of ballerinas are filled with mothers and fathers toting their daughters to dance class from the time they are three, spending hours on hair and make-up (that cost them a ton), competing heavily (which costs money), and buying more dance clothes and shoes (also costs a ton).  I'm not saying that every ballerina is rich, but ballet is a financially challenging art form--especially for those who are training to become the best of the best.

Misty's introduction to ballet was different than most.  She didn't discover it until she was 13, and her family was living in poverty, ultimately ending up living in a motel where she and her brothers and sisters had to sleep on the floor.  Through the help of her dance teacher, Misty was able to continue her training, pushing herself to a place she never thought was possible.  Even after winning scholarships for summer dance intensives, and being accepted in the ABT corps de ballet, Misty doubted herself.  She strove to overcome the prejudice that people have towards African Americans dancing classical ballet roles.

I loved reading about the dance classes and the feel of being on stage--but then I used to dance, so it all seems very familiar to me.  I am unsure if others who aren't familiar with dance would feel this way.  The reason I rated this 3 stars instead of 4 is because the writing is very simplistic.  It is not a young readers' edition, but I thought it was at first.  The writing isn't terrible--it's just not great either.  Also it's somewhat a jumbled mess as she jumps around time-wise quite a bit.  This wasn't a big deal when she was writing about her time in NYC, when she was an adult and dancing with ABT, but during the parts when she was in California with her family growing up, it confused me.  There were a lot of flashbacks, but it wasn't always clear.

I definitely recommend this to any dancer out there--whether you want to be a prima ballerina, or just want to keep dancing because you love it.  If you're looking for an inspirational story, this is where you can find it.  Misty Copeland overcame much and worked hard to get herself to where she is now.  It's hard to not be jealous of how beautiful a dancer she is.  This book will definitely go into my classroom library and will probably be featured on my "Royally Approved" Bookshelf at the beginning of the year.  I hope that my students will look up to Misty Copeland as a role model.

Image Source: Goodreads

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