Book Review of Misty Copeland's Ballerina Body

This is a short book review of Ballerina Body: Dancing and Eating Your Way to a Leaner, Stronger, and More Graceful You by Misty Copeland. I think Misty Copeland’s dedication actually sums up the book really nicely:

To all of us on this journey working towards a healthier life and a happier heart, we are in this together. I hope you all believe in yourselves every step of the way. Know that every day is another opportunity to keep trying. Work hard and know that you’re worth it.
— Misty Copeland

Many people that read this book will think the recommendations in it are fairly basic. What they don’t realize is how incredibly responsible and thoughtful it is. It may not seem revolutionary, and yet it is revolutionary to have someone with her stature advising you to return to simple foods and movements, to journal for your mental health, and to find and forge community through mentorship. The book is broken down into four sections: Mind, Motion, Meals, and Mentors.

My biggest takeaways from this book were actually the focus on mental health and community, which nicely bookend the diet and exercise recommendations. I felt inspired to sit down and really think about my goals and vision, as well as to connect with other dancers. She has an excellent section on mentorship, for both the mentee and mentor. She also includes a few of her struggles with feeling inadequate or trying to live up to others expectations, and how journaling has helped reinforce how far she has come and where she is going. This reminded me that I should take the time to write down some of my own feelings and experiences. It’s easy to see these things as an indulgent use of time, but Misty demonstrated how much solace she found when re-reading some of her past entries, which she even reprints in this book.

In the “Motion” section, I appreciated that she presented many exercises based on her recovery regimes from past injuries, which required her to move her practice to the floor after suffering six stress fractures in her left shin from her famous Firebird performance. Her exercises are accessible for a range of people, especially considering that most people cannot just jump into ballet or movement, even though they will want to. It’s not as glamorous to start on the floor doing floor barre instead of kicking it in pointe shoes, but it is way healthier for your body and requires zero equipment. A few of the exercises have been reprinted in this Sports Illustrated article.

We all know that dance and ballet requires an intense amount of dedication. Dedication is not just when you are in the classroom though, something I think Misty conveys well in this book. You must incorporate it into your everyday experience. Research has found that people who incorporate small movements that are peppered throughout the day will see more benefits than those that do a longer movement session but are otherwise sedentary. Yet we are so reticent to change our habits in this way. The good news is, these moves are small, and often require no additional time on your part! For example, Misty recommends anytime you have a towel or belt in your hand, grip the ends and bring the strap all the way behind you, moving through your shoulders full range of motion for two or three stretches (like this). Another great one is to practice getting up from the floor without using your hands- something she says took her several years to master after her tibia surgery (so don’t give up)!

Final verdict: Most people who read this book are probably doing so because they want Misty Copeland’s body. Personally, I could do without the focus on losing weight or achieving the “ballerina body” (I have an inkling these sentences were stuck in there by the publisher for sales and public appeal purposes). What you get instead is a way to improve and love the body you do have. I would recommend this book if you are looking for inspiration to kick-start or boost your current health plan, to add in a little cross-training to your dance regime, or if you are curious about what Misty Copeland’s health habits and philosophies are.

Have you read this book? Let me know your thoughts in the comments! Or just leave a link to your favorite Misty performance- I can never watch them enough!

Val OliphantComment