My Material Life

To Dance, To Dream


We took Samantha to see the Los Gatos Ballet perform Aurora’s Wedding last night, and it was a charming production.  I think we enjoyed it more than she did though.  Samantha has decided that she is a rock and roll girl; she’s never had much patience for classical or beautiful music as she calls it.  This disappoints me.  Ballet figures prominently in my early childhood memories: throwing up due to nerves before a recital; the crushing disappointment of breaking my favorite record, The Nutcracker Suite, when I tumbled off my bed and landed right on top of it; putting my lessons on hold when my mom couldn’t stay at the studio with me because she had to make sure my brothers weren’t home beating each other to a pulp.  I was an anxious youth, so these kinds of memories are most vivid for me.  But back to Samantha and her rock and roll preferences – what can a parent do?  We are each entitled to our own personal dreams, and there’s nothing wrong with rock and roll; it just seems a little premature for a seven-year-old.  But I never got serious about my dance lessons until my teens, so maybe there is still hope?

I’ve always enjoyed the imagery of the ballet.  Photographs of dancers, pictures from books.  In fact, I have two wonderful books to share with you that celebrate dance from the period of those memories above – the 1960’s, and you don’t need to be a child to enjoy them.  The book pictured at the top of this post (To Dance, To Dream) is one of them and I’ve had it ever since I can remember, though in all fairness it was probably my sister’s first.  It’s by Maxine Drury and was published in 1965. It contains short biographies of famous dancers like Isadora Duncan and Maria Tallchief.  That cover image is one that seems etched in my brain; I still love it.


Tales from the Ballet is a beautiful book that I discovered just a few years ago.  It is actually a Giant Golden Book from 1968 that tells the stories of the most famous traditional ballets.  The book was adapted by Louis Untermeyer and most wonderfully illustrated by Alice and Martin Provensen who were lucky enough to have a confirmed balletomane for a daughter.  Take a look at these pictures from the book.  Very 60’s; I just love them.  Some of the prettier ones didn’t photograph as well, so I didn’t include them.  By the way, the photo on the left above is of the book’s dust jacket and the one on the right is of the book cover.


  1. Kathie

    I saw “To Dance, to Dream” and my first thought was that I had that same book – the cover illustration grabbed my attention. Then I read further, and it probably is the same one! I LOVED reading biographies of famous dancers when I was taking ballet lessons. I remember thinking they were so glamorous and their lives were usually so tragic, I was fascinated. And I had to laugh about Samantha and her rock and roll preferences! She is such a character – but, you’re right, she may form an appreciation for all things musical as she gets older – we’ve certainly seen that with our kids through the years. (And you should consider yourself grateful that mom didn’t bring the boys with her to your lessons – I have vivid memories of the three of them mimicking me in class. Mom (and I) tried to pretend we didn’t know them!

    • Of course it’s the same one; I thought that would take you back or that you might want it back! Anyway, it’s here in our living room bookcase next time you come down. Pages are seriously turning brown though. Poor Mom – what those boys put her through!

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