Once Upon a Dance is a collaboration between an award-winning dance teacher and her ballerina daughter. With an initial pandemic mission to keep housebound kids moving, they’ve since produced 14 books, with an additional 6 works in the publishing queue.
The Dance-It-Out! Creative Movement Series for kids ages 4-7 offers a "whimsical" “ingenious” “bilingual presentation presented in two languages: that of a traditional story, and its counterpart in movement and exercise.”
The Dancing Shapes Series, designed for a slightly older audience, is a “visually stunning and interactive” collection to “inspire young dancers to get up and move”. Each book provides a gorgeous glimpse into Ballerina Konora’s world and takes readers through a warm-up, mini-ballet lesson, and an exploration of movement. The books’ optimal age increases as the series progresses—in the fourth volume, Konora offers “a heartfelt and detailed” account of some of the tougher aspects of growing up as an aspiring ballet dancer.
Konora had climbed the pre-professional ballet ladder up to Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Professional Division when the pandemic struck. Now, as a professional dancer, she’s one of the lucky ones whose dreams didn’t fade under COVID’s shadow. She has danced with Texture Contemporary Ballet, Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, and Ballet Idaho.
Konora’s mother taught creative movement and ballet for decades and was recognized by her City Council for "embodying the spirit of partnership and commitment to children in our community" for her work with young dancers. She trained at Ballet Met and The Louisville Ballet, and has breathed dance from every angle. She’s also worked in early childhood education and with non-profits supporting at-risk youth. During a two-year Peace Corps stint, she taught English and dance at the University of Namibia.
The team's first pandemic creation, Dancing Shapes, has won multiple awards including a 2021 Independent Press Award (Winner).
For information about the Once Upon a Dance catalog of children’s movement books, as well as dancer/teacher resources, visit www.OnceUponADance.com.
“An innovative use of dance and storytelling for a fun, child-focused activity.”
– Kirkus Reviews
A ballerina leads young dancers in movements that complement a tale about a kangaroo who loses his jump in this picture book.
Joey the Kangaroo is friends with everyone at Funville Zoo, but something makes him sad: He can’t remember how to jump. He tries many things, but he just can’t figure it out. Finally, on a quest to remember how jumping works, he peeks into the windows of a theater where dancers practice jumps. Joey finally finds his jump and discovers a fellow jumper—a frog named Juniper—who becomes his pal. Joey’s story stands alone, especially accompanied by Tkachenko’s beautiful, realistic colored-pencil drawings. But the tale is further enhanced by small callout boxes on each page in the voice of White ballerina Konora (her stage name), who guides children in movements that match this story by Once Upon a Dance. She encourages youngsters to act out the emotions, poses, or actions in a scene, using conversational language to engage readers: “Imagine you’re Joey and don’t know how to jump. How would you figure out which body parts to use?” The author’s photographs of Konora’s poses are clear and easy to imitate, even for beginners. Her stretches, positions, and—of course—jumps are well enough contained for an indoor activity. Movers should pair this book with Dancing Shapes (2020), which also features Konora, to help them practice using their bodies to tell tales.
An innovative use of dance and storytelling for a fun, child-focused activity.
Pub Date: Feb. 27, 2021
Page count: 40pp
Publisher: Once Upon A Dance
Review Posted Online: April 7, 2021
A ballet dancer presents beginning positions and discusses body awareness in this picture book designed to get readers moving.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, a young White dancer collaborated with her mother to create videos, aiming to inspire others stuck at home to start moving. In this book by Once Upon a Dance, Konora (her stage name) recounts her ballet journey, complete with beautiful photographs of her onstage performances over the years, before launching into the types of instruction she has shared on YouTube. After providing solid warmup directions that will help kids visualize the movements, Konora describes ballet’s traditional five positions as well as basic instructions for performing pliés. Then she calls for readers to create shapes with their bodies, using their imaginations to mimic animals or fashion other poses. The clear, white backgrounds put the images of Konora in stark relief, and the lighting underscores each position’s details. Pages at the beginning and end offer students other shapes to mimic, and Konora urges readers to invent their own. The small font and frequently text-dense pages may intimidate newly independent readers. But confident readers and parents can use the work as a prompt to move in new ways. Konora emphasizes that “Dance is for everyone!” and encourages awareness: “Always be gentle with your body. Don’t do anything that hurts.” With constant support and innovative descriptions that will spark imaginations, Konora invites readers to share the joy of dancing.
A superb tool for young dancers, full of accessible poses to mimic.
Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2020
Page count: 52pp
Publisher: Once Upon A Dance
Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2021
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021
This new Dancing Shapes series entry by mother-daughter team Once Upon a Dance offers more mindful ballet practices for young dancers.
Ballet dancer Konora describes her experience as she waited to hear back on whether she’s earned a professional dancing position and offers accounts of her young performances onstage and in competition as a student. Using examples from her past, she talks about having a good attitude, even under stress, and uses this concept to introduce the dance position called attitude. As in previous books, Konora describes warmups, poses, and positions in some detail, although here she helpfully refers back to past series entries rather than repeating herself. Once again, she emphasizes doing what feels right and not pushing too hard. As she teaches the attitude position, she emphasizes a “brain-to-foot connection” and portrays the leg movement while sitting and standing. The clear, full-color photos of her demonstrating each position against a white background make the movements easy to understand for aspiring and more experienced dancers. Some of the shapes are a bit more advanced and include prudent advice to take them slowly as well as encouragement: “It can be fun to have a challenge and make small progress toward your goals.” Other photos show Konora and her friends performing; most of the dancers are White and female.
Another valuable tool for young dance students.
Page count: 50pp
Publisher: Once Upon A Dance
Review Posted Online: May 7, 2021
Book Trailer: Joey Finds His Jump!: A Dance-It-Out Creative Movement Story for Young Movers
Covid-sidelined Dance Instructor
Favorite line from a book
All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.
Unexpected skill or talent
Passion in life
DANCING SHAPES: BALLET AND BODY AWARENESS FOR YOUNG DANCERS: Independent Press Award Winner, 2021
DANCING SHAPES: BALLET AND BODY AWARENESS FOR YOUNG DANCERS: Next Generation Indie Book Awards, 2021Many Books Author Feature, 2021
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