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Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina Hardcover – March 4, 2014

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* If you’d asked Copeland, soloist for the American Ballet Theatre, when she was a young African American teenager about her vision of the future, she would probably have said that the only thing less likely than her writing a memoir was her becoming a world-class ballerina. But when a teacher encouraged 13-year-old Misty to take ballet at the Boys and Girls Club of Los Angeles, she discovered a hidden talent. Her natural flexibility and grace had her on pointe within two months, something other ballerinas work years to achieve. She was offered lead roles before finishing high school. Her professional success is impressive, but it’s not what makes her memoir such an unexpected page-turner. After all, we already know Copeland will overcome racial and socioeconomic bias to claim her spotlight. What keeps us reading is Copeland’s intelligent, fair, and warm voice. She speaks with candor about having to lose her luscious curves and cover herself with white makeup to look more acceptable on stage, but she never places blame on those who asked her to do so. Her story is an inspiration to anyone—man or woman, black or white—who has ever chased a dream against the odds, and the grace with which she triumphs is an example for us all. --Amber Peckham


Wrenching and revelatory. (The New York Times)

An unexpected page-turner...Her story is an inspiration to anyone—man or woman, black or white—who has ever chased a dream against the odds, and the grace with which she triumphs is an example for us all. (Booklist (starred review))

Thorough, sensitive...clear-eyed. (The Washington Post)

[A] dramatic rags-to-toe shoes life story. (People)

Engaging... [Copeland is] a poised, intelligent writer whose temperament—disciplined, determined, driven—gives the book a special spark… In LIFE IN MOTION, she looks back on the past without bitterness or anger, only gratitude. Hers is an out-of-the-ordinary story about defying stereotypes, and she shares it in an inspiring narrative that’s enlivened by her own grace and generous spirit. (BookPage)

Captivating...heartrending...literary. (Lisa Jo Sagolla The Kansas City Star)

Remarkable. (Juicy Magazine)

[LIFE IN MOTION] reveals a woman as graceful and powerful in life as she is in dance. (Melissa Harris-Perry)

A raw, honest tale….Her memoir is filled with passion, pain, success, and…pure joy. (

Reads as a modern day Cinderella story…this memoir is an inspirational read—especially for aspiring dancers. (JET Magazine)

Misty Copeland, a ballerina of extraordinary talent and charisma, offers an autobiography as mesmeric as her dancing. She overcame adversity in the studio, in her home life, and in ballet's own traditionalism to become one of its brightest stars — her passion and perseverance will inspire dancers and non-dancers alike.
(Eliza Minden, author of The Ballet Companion and Co-Founder and Head of Design at dancewear company Gaynor Minden, Inc.)

[Misty Copeland's] book is a breezy read for such deep subject matter, but her beautiful and prevailing spirit shines through on every page. (The Inlander)

Reading her becomes even more apparent how this 31-year-old woman has parlayed her natural talent along with an uber intense discipline, passion and focus, into a stellar career. (The NWI Times)

Misty Copeland’s LIFE IN MOTION is an inspiration to all young people. She is the Jackie Robinson of the ballet world, and a true role model for an entire generation of new ballerinas.
(Frank Sanchez, Vice President, Boys & Girls Clubs of America)

[LIFE IN MOTION] is the stuff of which movies are made. (Chicago Sun-Times)

What a remarkable, encouraging story. Written naturally, modestly, and conversationally...[readers will] feel her triumphs and tragedies, wincing whenever she falls and cheering her on every time she gets back up….Brava, Misty. (Bildungsroman)

A tale of hardship and remarkable success. (Los Angeles Magazine)

A poignant primer proving the power of perseverance in the face of adversity.   (The LA Sentinel)

An important book for teen collections. (Angela Carstensen School Library Journal)

Told in graceful prose...[Copeland's] achievements will encourage all those attempting to beat the odds in competitive fields. (Publishers Weekly)

A page-turner...fascinating and emotional. (The Philadelphia Enquirer)

[Parts] the curtain on the ballet’s central illusion: that it is empowering for the female dancers at its centre. Providing a behind-the-scenes look at the glory and gore of find yourself rooting for her. (Deidre Kelly The Globe and Mail (Canada))

A gift to all balletomanes, not just the brown ones. (Esther Cepeda)

Misty’s unwavering belief that we can be anything that we dream is an inspiration – an inspiration to break the mold, follow your passion, never take no for an answer and do it all with grace, kindness and the spirit to help others on their journey. I am thrilled that my two daughters have a role model in Misty, who is breaking down doors that that they will never have to. (Rachel Roy)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone; First Edition edition (March 4, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1476737983
  • ISBN-13: 978-1476737980
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (286 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #11,250 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

57 of 60 people found the following review helpful By Eileen Pollock on March 11, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Misty Copeland's story is an inspiring tale of overcoming a difficult childhood of poverty and rising en pointe to become a brilliant soloist with American Ballet Theater.

Misty's drill instructor (she was captain of the drill team at school) advised her to study ballet at the Boys and Girls Club, which became her salvation. She started at the late age of 13. But she was a prodigy, with natural strength sufficient to graduate to toe shoes after just three months of instruction. Ballet was her element, she became devoted to the art form, and was given unstinting support from the owner of the studio. She went to live with her teacher and her husband for two years, in the only stable and prosperous home she had known. But a custody struggle between her mother and her ballet teacher ended with Misty being returned to her mother.

However, her talent and hard work won out, and she was accepted at every summer ballet intensive ballet she auditioned for (with the exception of New York City Ballet!). She moved from the San Francisco Ballet's intensive summer to American Ballet Theater's, and was immediately encouraged by the director of the studio company, a feeder to the professional company.

The story of how Misty overcame the instability of her childhood and teenage years is told sensitively and with compelling interest. She is the first and only ballerina of color to reach soloist level in a classical ballet company, especially one of ABT's importance. All along she must overcome obstacles - of lack of confidence, of prejudice in favor of "white swans", and the universal ballet rule to have a boyish figure, while Misty was attractively feminine.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Captain Snackbar on October 6, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've always loved Classical Ballet; I feel it's the most beautiful form of dance there is. It's something my wife and I share. When I met I her she had a Mikhail Baryshnikov calendar on her wall. She danced when she was very young. She introduced me to Ballet and Artistic Gymnastics, both she had done in her youth. Sadly ended by injury.

We both love to watch "So you think you can dance." as it brings some fantastic dancers to the stage and some of the wildest choreography I have ever seen. It brought us "Twitch"!

This last season we were watching as usual and I noticed a guest judge I had never seen before and I asked my wife who it was. She asked me, "You don't know who that is?" I had no idea other that she looked very serious. She said "That's Misty Copeland; one of the best ballerina's there is anywhere." I shrugged my shoulders, "OK." Her critiques were so precise and on point; every toe point; every movement; every emotion. I was like, "This dancer knows her business." I was impressed and I believe she was on for two episodes. My wife still was asking me how could you not know who she is? One thing I did know; she knows her business.

The above notes don't relate directly with her book but will. I'm married to a Latina and she told me that she wasn't always welcomed in allot of circles due to her not being white. Being white, I didn't fully get it because I wasn't raised that way. The statement "This is for the brown girls." should and probably relates to all women or men of color. Reading that made me sad but it should make every decent person sad.

Her story was a great read.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By MAXIMILLIAN MUHAMMAD HALL OF FAME on March 15, 2014
Format: Hardcover
one of those books that goes to show that talent, drive, dedication and not listening to the folks who say you can't do this or be this, or shine in this light,etc.. very honest and direct book. she is breaking barriers and only getting stronger. a really strong and enlightening book.
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27 of 32 people found the following review helpful By BBallerina on April 8, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Incredible story and beyond inspirational for fellow ballet dancers, but the editing in this book is awful and there are some major revisions to be done. For example, Misty discusses the "sylphs in Giselle" when any knower of ballet knows that syphs are from La Sylphide while Willis are in Giselle! Missing words in between sentences, repetitive sentence structure, and just incorrect information mostly are what bugged me throughout the book. Overall, an interesting memoir from a fabulous woman.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Little Willow on March 18, 2014
Format: Hardcover
When I picked up Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina by Misty Copeland, I was not familiar with Misty's career or her life. I was drawn to the biography because of its subject matter: I've always loved ballet, and though I'm not a classical ballerina, I'm a dancer, too; and I relate very strongly to stories about prodigies and underdogs. Very strongly. I also loved the title, because I often say (or others have said about me) that I'm constantly in motion. Furthermore, as an example of how my life works, I wrote a play about ballerinas which made its debut the same week this book was released. For all these reasons and more, I was compelled to snatch up this book immediately and leap right in.

What a remarkable, encouraging story. Written naturally, modestly, and conversationally, by the end of Life in Motion, readers will feel as if they know Misty personally - especially if they have endured similar hardships. As one of six children in a family that didn't have a lot of disposable income (if any), Misty was fairly content with her life. She loved her siblings, and she attended school faithfully - in fact, she was so afraid of being late, she was always an hour early to school. She loved dancing around her room to the radio, letting the music move her from the tips of her fingers to the tips of her toes.

When she was in middle school, she tried out for the school drill team. Her affinity for movement, her flexibility, and her ability to pick up choreography quickly led her drill team coach to recommend that Misty take ballet classes at the local Boys and Girls Club.
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