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Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina

3.85  ·  Rating Details ·  4,238 Ratings  ·  664 Reviews
"Picture a ballerina in a tutu and toe shoes. What does she look like?"

As the only African American soloist dancing with the prestigious American Ballet Theatre, Misty Copeland has made history. But when she first placed her hands on the barre at an after-school community center, no one expected the undersized, anxious thirteen-year-old to become a ground-breaking balleri
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published March 4th 2014 by Touchstone
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Jennifer This book is a flowing story that I couldn't put down, and I read it in a day. I think a smart 11 year old girl would learn a lot about life,…moreThis book is a flowing story that I couldn't put down, and I read it in a day. I think a smart 11 year old girl would learn a lot about life, self-discipline, families with emotional and stress challenges (Misty talks about her mom's multiple divorces and reasons why) and Misty's fortitude to master life's curveballs and continue to pursue ballet (the art-form, activity and sport to which Misty becomes committed). Misty talks about her experience of the ballet world as a technically skilled, artistically sensitive brown-skinned dancer and the prejudices she encounters in her career as a ballerina in an historically white-skinned occupation.

Community Reviews

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Life in Motion is the December 2016 group read in the group African American historical fiction. As the winter is a captivating time of year to watch ballet, we read about Misty Copeland, the first African American soloist for the New York City Ballet in many years time. Life in Motion, which she wrote with a collaborator, is her story of perseverance that lead her to become the ballerina she is today.

Misty Copeland was born in St Louis, the fourth of five children. Her mother one day decided s
Aug 07, 2014 Jennifer rated it it was ok
Shelves: ballet, 2015-books

2.5-stars, really.

i want to be very clear upfront -- i love (LOVE!) misty copeland. i think she is fierce, admirable and inspirational. this review is not about her or her life. this review is about the quality of the book.

and the quality of the book for me was, unfortunately, not great. i didn't find the writing particularly strong, and i found the structure of the telling erratic and repetitive. so this is just such a shame. i have found that when people of note pen their memoirs (and sometime
Nov 18, 2015 Amanda rated it really liked it
Misty Copeland made history in 2012 when she starred in Stravinsky's role of the Firebird in New York City as the first black soloist at ABT in more than twenty years.

Her memoir is aptly named. Misty was a shy and introspective girl who grew up in a very unstable home and had a tumultuous childhood. Her family was constantly moving as her mother, a loving and well intending mother, moved from one troubled relationship to another. The family often struggled economically. Misty only discovers bal
Mar 29, 2014 Michelle rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
Wow. Could not put this one down! Fantastic and powerful story. I am a white middle aged woman. I've never even had a dance class. Not one. Wasn't black, but I did grow up in a trailer park. No dance lessons for me! LOL Not to mention I haven't a coordinated bone in my entire, totally wrong-shaped body! But I grew up reading and rereading biographies of dancers that I found in my public library. My favorite was Maria Tallchief--what a story! I read books about her over and over. What a story thi ...more
Michelle Turner
Ballet as an art form has its origins in Italy as far back as 1489 when Bergonzio di Botta presented the first ballet dinner in Tortone. It wasn’t until nearly 200 years later when it took root in France with the establishment of the first ballet academy, Academie Royale de Danse, founded by Louis XIV. The very first professional female ballet dancer was Mlle. La Fontaine in 1661. This classical art didn’t make its way to America until the late 1700’s and it would be over 150 years after that be ...more
Mar 21, 2014 C.R. rated it it was amazing
Like some reviewers I was struck by the tone of Misty's narrative. The way she talks about her skills is not particularly self-effacing. But I felt it was actually a positive aspect that she did not attempt to suggest that she is only one of many talented dancers who happened to luck out. The fact that she told her story unapologetically was a large part of the book's charm because frankly, readers will decide if they are curious about her story or not. And she does address critics a bit in the ...more
May 16, 2015 Andrea rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book is subtitled "An Unlikely Ballerina" but after reading it I'm not particularly convinced that the description really fits Misty Copeland. She seems intent on convincing the reader that she is an unlikely candidate to be a star ballerina because she is black, because she started dancing late and because she comes from a disadvantaged background. But this story line conflicts with the other dominant them in her autobiography, the one that insists on convincing us that she is phenomenally ...more
Karolina Rzadkowolska
Jan 16, 2014 Karolina Rzadkowolska rated it it was amazing
I couldn't be happier to win this book in a Goodreads giveaway. I trained in and performed ballet seriously for ten years myself and now continue to enjoy it for fun.

Misty's memoir traces her unlikely path to becoming a soloist with the American Ballet Theater (some argue the best ballet company in the US) and one of the first African American women to do so. She had unimaginable beginnings learning ballet at a Boys and Girls Club at the late age of thirteen along with an unstable childhood liv
Oct 25, 2013 Tiffani rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir, art, read-in-2014
The first ballet I saw was probably a production of The Nutcracker at the local community center in my hometown. Since then I have been fascinated, intrigued, and completely mesmerized by dance. There is something magical about men and woman flying through the air, and dancing on their tiptoes and telling a story without saying a word. When I lived in New York I tried to see as many ballets as my time and money would afford. Several years after leaving New York, attending a performance at Lincol ...more
Apr 22, 2015 Diane rated it liked it
Shelves: memoirs, audiobooks, dance
I've been on a ballet kick lately, and I picked up Misty Copeland's memoir to round out my reading. Misty made headlines last year when she became the first African-American woman to be a principal dancer for the American Ballet Theatre. (You might also recognize her from her kickass "I Will What I Want" commercial for Under Armour.)

Misty had an itinerant childhood, moving whenever her mother changed boyfriends. She was born in Kansas City, Missouri, but moved to California when her mother left
Donna Davis
Book review Life in Motion by Misty Copeland

Misty Copeland, star ballerina with the American Ballet Theatre, wants us to know that when she enters a stage, she thinks, “This is for all the little brown girls.” And rightfully so. She is the first Black ballerina to rise to this level of prominence in twenty years, and the first ever to star in The Firebird.

I read this book free courtesy of Net Galley. I approached it not as a fan of ballet, but as an avid reader of autobiographies and memoirs. Wh
Katy Jane
Jun 06, 2015 Katy Jane rated it liked it
Conclusion: At least she can be a prima donne, if not a prima ballerina. Ohhh snap.
1. She truly had to endure a lot of things as a child. I respect her drive and her perseverance.
2. There's a few things I didn't like, though. She kind of put people down in tiny ways that just seemed rude. She said that her drill teammates were "fast", she called one girls performance forgettable, called ABT's white dancers "frail," and I also didn't like that she kept saying brown girls. I understand the thing
Mar 23, 2014 Ashlee rated it liked it
Shelves: biographies
Misty Copeland has been a ballerina that I have admired for years for several reasons: for being a great dancer, for breaking barriers and fighting discrimination of many kinds, for being one of the most successful ballerinas to bring ballet to a larger audience (despite being often criticized for that). She really is a unique figure in ballet. Her auto-biography was very interesting, and highlights the struggle that many children must make at a young age between family and their art or sport to ...more
India Hill
Nov 02, 2016 India Hill rated it it was amazing
So I LOVED this book. As someone who just moved to New York myself, I could connect to it on a personal level. Misty Copeland's of rising up out of a difficult childhood situation to becoming the first African-American Principal Dancer of an international company is inspiring. There are so many incidences that had to happen for her to be where she is today. This is an autobiography, but her journey is so interesting it almost reads as a fiction novel. You turning the pages as if you don't alread ...more
Leigh  Kramer
Mar 19, 2015 Leigh Kramer rated it it was amazing
I didn't know much about Misty Copeland before she was a guest judge on So You Think You Can Dance last summer but I was quickly intrigued. She offered fantastic critiques of the dancers, for one. Reading her memoir made me even more of a fan. She's had quite the life but her determination and dedication are what's most notable. I'm glad she chose to address the racism she's encountered in the dance world and even more glad she's broken the barriers she has, hopefully making it easier for other ...more
Dec 06, 2016 Lulu rated it liked it
2.5 rounded up to 3 because of her significance. I couldn't really connect with Misty in this memoir. It's more like a telling of the story of Misty and not Misty's story. It just all seemed superficial to me, I wanted more depth.
Jenny (adultishbooks)
Feb 20, 2016 Jenny (adultishbooks) rated it really liked it
I have been interested in ballet since I was 12 and after seeing A Ballerina's Life last weekend, I needed to read this.

I am now obsessed with Misty Copeland.
Aug 13, 2014 Whitney rated it liked it
I'm torn about whether or not I liked this book.

On the one hand: Misty Copeland's story is inspiring. It's amazing what she went through before becoming (currently) the only African American soloist dancing with ABT. Even as a ballet prodigy, her upbringing made it so that the odds were overwhelmingly stacked against her. Not only did Misty overcome them, she never made an excuse to stop trying. Like I said, inspiring.

On the other hand: I understand that she still currently works with ABT, but a
Mar 04, 2014 pianogal rated it it was ok
This book was so uneven. I really wish it would have been more about the ballet instead of her bumpy family life. Also, I REALLY really wish they would have hired a reader for the audio book who knew the difference between aUtistic and aRtistic. The first time she said it, I thought, Oh - that's a real accomplishment for that ballet director to be autisic, but when everyone was autistic, I realized she meant ARTistic. Sigh. Seriously, where was the editor on this? She wasn't even close and she h ...more
Jul 12, 2015 Julia rated it really liked it
On June 30, 2015, Copeland became the first African American woman to be promoted to principal dancer in the American Ballet Theatre's 75-year history. after being named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time the prior month.

When I heard the news, I immediately ordered this book from the library, and read it straight through in an afternoon. If I were still teaching, this book would enter the curriculum for biography/memoir in middle school. The style of writing is so warm a
Lauren Hopkins
Nov 27, 2016 Lauren Hopkins rated it really liked it
I loved this...Misty Copeland is a legend, going from a first ballet class at 13 to landing a spot at ABT only four years later and then becoming the company's first female African American principal in history? Impossible, and yet she did it, all the while dealing with a torrential upbringing and hearing countless people telling her she didn't deserve to be there. Her story is an inspiration, and even though I knew the outcome, I spent the first half of the book worried that she'd never get to ...more
Jessie Potts
Jan 02, 2016 Jessie Potts rated it liked it
Shelves: audio
So the whole of the book does not flow, the narration felt choppy and Misty jumps around in the timeline a lot.

What I will say is the last chapter is beautiful and exactly how I feel. Ballet should be brought to everyone, no matter race, income, or body type. Misty Copeland may not be a writer, and some may say things about her dancing, but she is doing amazing things for ballet, and for that I respect her so much.
Maya B
Dec 12, 2016 Maya B rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
this was a light and easy read. Misty Copeland is definitely a person that beat the odds to be where she is today. good insight into what its like to be a black ballerina. so much to overcome and still a long way to go. my only issue was some parts of the book were repetitive and rambling, but overall its a compelling story to read
Mar 20, 2017 Asha rated it liked it

I've never seen Misty Copeland perform in person but, after reading her autobiography, I want to. She's the second African American woman to be a soloist in the American Ballet Theatre and the first to become a principal. When this particular book was written she had been a soloist and in 2015 she was made a principal. Learning about her childhood was amazing. It really goes to show you how helpful the Boys and Girls Club is for some kids she was provided with an excellent opportunity. But she i

Dec 14, 2015 Sleepless rated it liked it
I'm really stressed and I have a test tomorrow that I barely studied for so I'll try to make this review quick while still sharing my thoughts.

I'll admit it. While I'm a huge fan of all art, I've never understood dance. Music, theater, visual art, writing, and cinema all speak to me but, despite seeing a lot of ballet and modern, it's been rare for me to feel something, watching dance.

I also know ballet is a viscous career. I was interesting in reading this because there's something incredibly
Leslie Reese
May 04, 2014 Leslie Reese rated it it was amazing
Shelves: autobiography, dance
Misty Copeland took her first ballet class at a Boys and Girls Club in San Pedro, California at the age of 13. One of six children, she never knew her biological father before she was 20 years old. Her family lived in a motel for many years. Misty was a young African American girl who had never even seen a ballet performed, but she had incredible talent and strong passion to express herself fully as a ballerina. By age 19 she was living across the country in New York City as a member of the Amer ...more
Apr 18, 2014 Books rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Before reading this memoir, I had no idea who Misty Copeland is. Now I do. In fact, not having ever had the desire to take ballet lessons or become a ballerina, I had no idea that the world of ballet favors white ballerinas. Now I do.

Not knowing who Misty Copeland is, I was attracted to this book by its synopsis. It is about an African American ballerina struggling against adversity. That was enough to get me interested in reading it. Moreover, she comes from an impoverished background which ma
Dec 29, 2013 Crystal rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014
“This is for the little brown girls.”

I really enjoyed this memoir. I first heard of Misty Copeland via an Essence magazine a few years ago, when they did a feature article on her. I thought the pictures they’d taken of her were beautiful; her grace and light shone through. I’m not even sure how I heard of this book, but I’m glad I added it to my “to-read” list.

I find that so often, we look at a person and see them in their present form, without fully considering all the various twists and turns
Taryn Pierson
Jan 27, 2016 Taryn Pierson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
You should totally read this book by Misty Copeland, a barrier-shattering African American classical ballerina, but even more than that, you should type her name into YouTube and see for yourself what she can do. Because she is ridiculously, insanely talented, and there's no way to fully comprehend the magnitude of it unless you see it with your own eyes.

And OH MY GOSH it has not been an easy climb to the top. Breaking into the lily-white world of professional ballet has been a struggle since C
La Tonya  Jordan
Nov 27, 2014 La Tonya Jordan rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to La Tonya by: Go On Girls Book Club
Shelves: good-read
This book was a joy to read. It was a quick read because of the powerful story of Misty Copeland's life. She is a soloist ballerina at one of the elitist ballet company's in the world, American Ballet Theater, who did not take her first ballet lesson until the age of thirteen. She is at the top of a profession that does not embrace her skin color or social economy status easily. The road less traveled is Misty Copeland's story. From her mother's love and subsequent relationships with different m ...more
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