When I was a little girl I had a lovely old book called “To Dance, To Dream” by Maxine Drury; I found it discarded in my basement, among a heap of old toys and other discarded treasures. The nonfiction book highlighted the childhoods of various ballerinas, including Marie Taglioni, the subject of my novel “The Grace of the Hunchback.” Marie’s story talked about her determination to overcome what we now call scoliosis, a curvature of the spine; and to rise above the ugly duckling image and bullying to which she was subjected. “The Grace of the Hunchback”, my novel about Marie, is ultimately about her triumph over loneliness and abandonment to become, onstage, the epitome of beauty. It’s now available for sale on Amazon:
I would never have known about Marie if not for “To Dance, To Dream.” Though I believe Maxine Drury’s compelling book is out of print, it can still be obtained in used editions:
Here is the description:
“Down through the centuries, many men and women have danced with exceptional skill and grace, but we do not know their names. It was not until the seventeenth century, when art and entertainment began to emerge from the courts into public theaters, that the names of dancers began to be remembered and recorded. In the nearly 300 years since then, many men and women have gained renown for their dancing skill. To select the greatest of these performers would be an impossible task. Still more impossible would be an attempt to define their greatness, for, like the art of a great painter or great musician, the art of the dancer cannot be described in words. But there have been during these centuries, and there are today, men and women who, in addition to their greatness as performers, have developed an ideal of what dance should be, and perhaps more importantly, they have had the intelligence and determination to advance toward that ideal. These are the men and women who have helped to transform dance from what it was 300 years ago to what it is today. Chosen from among these are the dancers whose stories make up this book. Their contributions are of many different kinds. Some changed the style of ballet, like Salle and Fokine. Others originated new styles of dancing, like Duncan, or revived neglected ones, like La Argentina. Some worked to reach wider audiences, like Pavlova. Still others were the first to gain recognition for their country in the field of ballet, like Fonteyn and Tallchief. Although their contributions were distinctive, these men and women had a similar dedication of body, mind, and spirit to the life they chose. They were all alike, moreover, in that they left the dance a more vital and meaningful field for those who came after them. To Dance, To Dream includes the biographies of Jean Baptiste Lully, Marie Salle, Marie Taglioni, Isadora Duncan, Michel Fokine, Anna Pavlova, La Argentina, Ted Shawn, Margot Fonteyn, and Maria Tallchief.”
They are wonderful tales for children and adults alike; who knows what they might inspire?