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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



BY • POSTED ON Feb. 27, 2021

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

ISBN: 978-1-73635-365-3

Page count: 40pp

Publisher: Once Upon A Dance

Review Posted Online: April 7, 2021



BY • POSTED ON Nov. 29, 2020

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

ISBN: 978-1-73598-440-7

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.

Pub Date:

ISBN: 978-1-7368750-2-5

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

Awards, Press & Interests



Favorite author

Kevin Henkes

Favorite book


Day job

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.

Favorite word


Unexpected skill or talent

Ping Pong

Passion in life




Many Books Author Feature, 2021


Brielle’s Birthday Ball: A Dance-It-Out Creative Movement Story for Young Movers

Pull back the curtain on the children’s imagination stage where kids join Brielle celebrating her seventh birthday on the moon. A was-it-just-a-dream adventure packed with movement concepts and subtle life lessons. Ballerina Konora suggests moves to develop body coordination, focus the breath, and learn dance fundamentals.
Published: June 19, 2021
ISBN: 978-1955555005

Danny, Denny, and the Dancing Dragon: A Dance-It-Out Creative Movement Story for Young Movers

Interactive movement wrapped up in a charming story of new baby disappointment. Only little brother Denny has an amazing surprise for his brother Danny! Kadessa the Dragon makes a fabulous dance partner in this third story from the Dance-It-Out collection, pandemic creations by an award-winning dance teacher and her Ballerina daughter. Grown-ups sit; kiddos move and practice dance fundamentals on their imagination stage. Ballerina Konora is featured on each page as optional movement mentor to help readers connect with movement.

More Dancing Shapes: Ballet and Body Awareness for Young Dancers

More Dancing Shapes is the second in the series from an award-winning dance teacher and her ballet-dancer daughter. Following a format similar to the Dancing Shapes debut: our ballerina heroine, Konora, leads readers through: • an inside glimpse into her continuing almost-ballerina journey • a warm-up and basic ballet technique lesson • an exploration of form and shape • creating their own unique shapes

Nutcracker Dancing Shapes: Shapes and Stories from Konora’s Twenty-Five Nutcracker Roles

Join Ballerina Konora as she looks back through her twenty-five Nutcracker roles and explore her performance-based shapes and poses. Formatted similarly to the other Dancing Shapes books, this volume feels like five books in one. Konora leads readers through: • the story of The Nutcracker • Konora’s personal Nutcracker experiences • storytelling and imagination • ballet shapes • candid stories about some of the funny happenings along the way Brought to you by a mother-daughter COVID-collaboration, this third installment of the Dancing Shapes series presents a fascinating peek at the life of an almost-ballerina.

Petunia Perks Up: A Dance-It-Out Movement and Meditation Story

Gentle movement and meditation. Petunia woke to yet another rainy day, and she feels particularly gloomy about being stuck inside. By letting ordinary objects and elements of her daily routine spark her imagination, she finds a happy calm she wants to share. Ballerina Konora is there to help readers connect with movement and focus the breath.

Princess Naomi Helps a Unicorn: A Dance-It-Out Creative Movement Story for Young Movers

Unicorns and Horses and Snakes, oh my! Interactive movement wrapped up in a charming story of sibling angst, anger management, compassion, and triumph. Fed up with her annoying sister, Naomi storms out of the castle, only to discover a unicorn in need of help. With a sense of purpose, she quickly forgets her anger. Ballerina Konora is featured on each page as optional movement mentor to help readers connect with movement. “Cheerful and heartwarming, this movement adventure will inspire creative expression through imagination. As readers replicate the actions in the story, they will gain a greater understanding of human emotions and how to express them through both words and actions.” —Mary Lanni, Librarian/Reviewer

The Cat with the Crooked Tail: A Dance-It-Out Creative Movement Story for Young Movers

Sit back and give a child the imagination stage! Miss Merida Brown thinks her tail hinders her abilities, but with help from a friend, she proves herself wrong. This charming story of persistence and self-acceptance highlights the value of practice, friendship, and a good attitude. Ballerina Konora offers movement motivation and photo ideas to express the story. Three books in one: readers can enjoy the story, act out the story in their own way, or follow Konora’s suggested moves, designed by an award-winning dance instructor to improve body coordination and teach dance fundamentals.