A former principal ballerina with the New York City Ballet (1958-76) recounts the stories of six of the best- loved ballets: The Firebird, CoppÃ‰lia, Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, Giselle, and Sleeping Beauty. Though Verdy varies her tone to suit the flavor of each dance, and while her narrative style is clear, it's not especially distinguished; what's special here is that the author's retellings are actually careful explications of the dancers' movements, making them excellent sources for anyone seeing the ballet. Brief introductions give each ballet's history and Verdy's personal experience with it. The splendid Marcia Brown (three Caldecotts plus three Honors) contributes three or four full-page, mixed-media (watercolor, pastel, pencil) illustrations for each ballet. Classical in feeling they represent the characters as dancers, exquisitely capturing their movement and grace; the backgrounds are appropriately theatrical and impressionistic, the compositions dynamic yet skillfully balanced, the use of color adroit and sometimes daringly imaginative. A fine addition to any collection.