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Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  6,825 ratings  ·  964 reviews
Librarian's note: An alternate cover edition can be found here

Determination meets dance in this memoir by the history-making ballerina.

In this instant New York Times bestseller, Misty Copeland makes history, telling the story of her journey to become the first African-American principal ballerina at the prestigious American Ballet Theatre. But when she first placed her han
Paperback, 304 pages
Published December 16th 2014 by Touchstone (first published March 4th 2014)
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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, self-dis…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.

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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 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015-books, ballet

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
Mar 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
May 16, 2015 rated it it was ok
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
Kristy K
Dec 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
3.5 Stars

I had seen a documentary about Copeland a few years ago and her story intrigued me. This autobiography goes into much more detail about her childhood (there were so many things that could have given her an excuse to give up) and the struggles she faced as one of the only black ballerinas. It’s inspiring and awe inducing. It shows what hard work and dedication can do.
C.R. Elliott
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
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
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
Leslie Reese
May 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 22, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks, memoirs, 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
Jan 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 10, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not enough ballet for me, and it ends right when things are getting really interesting. But I still love Misty Copeland!
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
Jan 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
5 Stars for Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina (audiobook) by Misty Copeland read by Lisa Reneé Pitts. This is really an amazing story. I love ballet and I find it interesting to get a glimpse into the lives of the dancers and choreographers. Misty Copeland’s story of starting out so far away from the world of ballet and making it to the very top is really special. She overcame a tremendous amount of obstacles and is an inspiration to all.
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
India Brown
Nov 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Lauren Hopkins
Nov 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jan 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, bipoc-author
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
Cardyn Brooks
Jun 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina rings so clearly as Misty Copeland's authentic voice for anyone who's had the pleasure of watching any of her interviews. (Her conversation with Tavis Smiley put her on my radar years ago.) She'd lived through enough family drama by the age of 16 to fill two long lifetimes, always managing to keep finding her way through circumstances with treacherous emotional and sometimes physical dangers. M.C. recalls the details of her life with such compassion for her ...more
Leigh Kramer
Mar 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, favorites
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
Jun 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I finished this book a while ago and kept forgetting to review it. This book tells the story of misty Copelands life as a ballerina. the beginning was kind of confusing but through out the rest of it wasn't. This book is really good and I would recommend it to people if they need to read a biography. ...more
Dec 06, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
Jenny Bunting
Feb 20, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-romance-recs
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.
Caitlin Wedge
May 11, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was AMAZING! I would give it a 10 star rating. She has changed history and I want to be just like her!!!
Claudia Turner
Feb 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’m so glad I read this finally. I had it on my shelf for two years and when I picked it up I could barely put it down. I read a couple reviews that said some things about her life that were totally wrong as if they didn’t actually read the book (or more than the last 50 pages). So I guess I’ll add some details about her life that I think make this worthwhile: Misty is tough, introspective, humble and thoughtful. She has been through chaos and drama from L.A. to NY, and a multitude of moves and ...more
Jul 12, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Diana Murillo
Nov 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I recently decided to read this memoir for a school project. I was not sure what to expect. I don't know much about ballet but I took a dance class like two years ago. The author uses ballet terms that I did not know, so it was complicated to understand them. I did not search them up because it is not convenient. I enjoyed this book but I had a hard time understanding how her life went because some event where out of chronological order. The style of writing is simple which I enjoyed. Copeland's ...more
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Misty Danielle Copeland (born September 10, 1982) is an American ballet dancer for American Ballet Theatre (ABT), one of the three leading classical ballet companies in the United States. On June 30, 2015, Copeland became the first African American woman to be promoted to principal dancer in ABT's 75-year history. ...more

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145 likes · 15 comments
“put on a performance that hid all the strings, leaving only stardust for the audience to see.” 4 likes
“The difference between being an amazing technician and being a soloist or principal is mastering those interpretive flourishes to tell the best story. Otherwise you aren’t a ballerina—you’re just another dancer.” 3 likes
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