Nikki White and her husband Ethan White both danced professionally for ballet companies in the San Francisco Bay Area for more than 10 years before embarking on a new and exciting direction in their dance careers. They're on a mission to bring contemporary ballet to wider audiences and in doing so were named one of three finalists on Paula Abdul's CBS television show Live to Dance in 2011. Interestingly, their new career direction also includes the launch of a new picture book character -- Prima the Ballerina!
If you've checked out the video above, you've gotten a little taste of who Nikki and Ethan are and what their impressive dancing and choreography are like. But just who is Prima the Ballerina? Well, I've read about Prima online and have also been in touch with Nikki to find out.
"Prima is an expressive young girl, with a wonderful imagination, a curious nature, and a big heart," says Nikki, who will be writing all the books in the Prima series. "She finds the dance in every movement, the games in everyday activities, and the joy that comes from self expression."
These days, Nikki spends a lot of time teaching, and Prima was developed partly in response to parents and fellow teachers wanting to know how she engages her students. So in some ways, the books will be an extension of Nikki, using many of the same techniques that Nikki uses to teach dance to young children.
The series will follow Prima as she learns about many different kinds of dance. But, given Nikki's background, all of the books will show how the foundation of ballet connects to these other forms of movement. Hip-hop, classical Indian dance, modern dance, tap, and ballroom dance are all on the list of possible themes for future books.
The first book in the series -- Prima the Ballerina: In Her Backyard -- focuses on how ballet can inform creative movement. In the book, Prima meets backyard animals who each teach her a different way to move. She meets butterflies, an owl, and snakes. Ants teach her how to balance, and a bunny teaches her how to jump high, with her toes pointed, and land softly on the ground. By the end of the book, Prima realizes that she can make a whole dance out of everything she has learned from her animal friends!
Another thing I've learned from talking to Nikki is that more than just a series, Prima the Ballerina is a brand that was created to reach children and their caregivers with dance tools they might not otherwise have available to them. Prima is available not only as a hardcover picture book but also as an interactive flipbook. An accompanying musical CD is also available for purchase, especially if you are looking for music to go along with the games Prima plays with the animals in the book.
I have to give Nikki and Ethan a lot of credit for launching these products on their own. They have been busy marketing online, visiting bookstores, going on school visits, and much more. And they have a lot of dedication and enthusiasm!
If you are searching for a traditionally published book about dance to entertain young children, this may not be what you're looking for. But if you are searching for a tool to engage young children in dance and begin teaching them some of the important concepts that all good dancers must master, then Prima could be for you. I wish Nikki and Ethan lots of success in growing their brand!