Ballet for Life: A Pictorial Memoir


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For the first time, dance legend Finis Jhung shares his incredible journey from a humble childhood amid the chaos of World War II Hawai’i to an extraordinary career as a dancer on Broadway, in film, and with the Joffrey and Harkness ballet companies and then as the founder of the critically acclaimed Chamber Ballet U.S.A. Ballet for Life: A Pictorial Memoir is filled with nearly 300 gorgeous photos—most of them never before published-along with Finis’s own distinctively witty commentary on his personal and professional life and his intimate recounting of the freedom that he gained from his conversion to Buddhism 50 years ago. The memoir also lovingly pays tribute to many of the fascinating dance personalities whom Finis met along the way.

Today at the age of 80, Finis’s story continues as a much-sought-after master ballet teacher and coach, who imparts his own innovative ballet technique to dancers in New York City through popular classes and to dancers everywhere through a library of his own instructional videos.

Additional information

Weight 1.6875 lbs
Memoir Options

Paperback – $19.99, Autographed Paperback – $24.99

“Finis invites us not only into the World of Ballet, but into his life!
5 Stars (out of 5)

“I just received my pre-ordered copy yesterday! I’m halfway through because I can’t put it down! Not only has Maestro Finis shared his knowledge and life experiences as a teacher, now he has shared his life with us! His classes and videos (and mentoring) made me a better dancer and teacher, his generosity has made me a better person! This book, so beautifully and lovingly written, invites the reader into the world of ballet, of life! For all these reasons, it will be one I share with my students, as I do with Kirsten & Balanchine’s Complete Stories of the Great Ballets and Apollo’s Angels. Thank you for this gift, Maestro!”

—Amazon Reader

“When I was in need of serious mind and body recuperation, a friend suggested Finis Jhung and his superb technique of training both mind and body. I had come from a background of training with the Doris Jones Ballet School in Washington DC and The American School Of Ballet, and Finis helped to put me back on my feet again. He is a true artist–as you will see when you read this book. Thank you, Finis, for making strong, balanced bodies and minds.”

— Chita Rivera,
Broadway Icon, Tony®-Winning Actress, Singer, Dancer

“Thousands of lessons, hardships, joys, and triumphs…thousands of moments when generosity shapes the future. These are gifts along the journey of life! In this book, Finis Jhung honors those gifts and shows through his words, teaching and career, that the journey is not successfully navigated without a stunning love for the work and a great deal of inspiration. As a teenager, I walked into Finis’ class with my dance bag and countless hopes and dreams. Luckily for me, a stunning love for the work and a great deal of inspiration was waiting at the barre!”

— Andy Blankenbuehler
Three-time Tony® winning Broadway Choreographer (Hamilton, Bandstand, In the Heights)
Director, Dancer

“I met Finis when I was performing my first principal roles as a corps de ballet member, and he immediately knew I would make it to the top. He seemed to have this sixth sense that can’t be taught. After reading his story and learning about his devotion to Buddhism and how it completely changed his outlook on life, I was inspired to see life with that same clarity and compassion. Finis’s life journey as a dancer, turned Buddhist leader, turned ballet teacher and coach has not only motivated me to aspire to achieve my greatest dreams and hopes, but also to allow my journey to be never-ending and unexpected.

— Sara Mearns
Principal Dancer, The New York City Ballet

“Something in Finis Jhung’s deeply lived experience of dance afforded him the vision and the voice to lead dancers to a refined freedom of engagement through the exquisite challenges of ballet’s demands. His considerations of the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ of classical practice have left their indelible mark on generations of artists like myself, who still feel the influence of his practical clarity.”

— William Forsythe
Professor of Dance and Artistic Advisor,
Choreographic Institute at the USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance

“Finis Jhung has had a long and remarkable career as dancer, teacher, choreographer and company artistic director, and now he has written a pictorial biography that beautifully describes his life in dance. His devotion to the art of ballet is palpable and his search for knowledge is ongoing. This biography is complete and compelling, touching and honest. The photographs are exquisite. All dance fans will be happy to have this book.”

— Lawrence Rhodes
Artistic Director Emeritus, The Juilliard School Dance Division

“Learning from his own experiences, Finis Jhung truly did it his way and became an iconic teacher and master of ballet. Finis’s story will enlighten those who have made dance their life, and it will give you an appreciation of the struggles which took him from Hawaii to New York.”

— Cynthia Harvey
Artistic Director
American Ballet Theatre’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School

“Finis Jhung is a compelling, elegant and exciting teacher. I have benefited from his classes through the years and have truly been enriched by them. May he continue to pass on his wisdom for many years to come.”

— Dame Gillian Lynne DBE

“Finis Jhung’s memoir, at its heart, is a uniquely American tale of trials and tribulations met with strength and determination. It encapsulates the incredibly demanding journey to success in the world of ballet. I flew through every page and loved every anecdote. Cheers to a beautiful book, a beautiful story of an artist and a beautiful human being.

— Adam Sklute
Director, Ballet West

“Finis Jhung’s beautifully-written memoir of self-transcendence, from a poor student in Honolulu to a world-renowned dancer on Broadway and with the Joffrey and Harkness Ballet companies, culminates in his work as a Master Ballet Teacher whose wisdom helps countless dancers become their personal best!”

— Linda Hamilton, Ph.D.
Performance Psychologist
Author, The Dancer’s Way: The New York City Ballet Guide to Mind, Body, and Nutrition

“This is a must-read for aspiring dancers, seasoned dancers, patrons and dance aficionados alike! This is a real journey through every unimaginable obstacle to famed success. The passion, the daily commitment and pure joy and love for ballet seeps from each page. From his eloquent words to the wonderful photographs, Finis’s heart-warming biography will inspire you to love ballet that much more. Finis is a treasure in our industry. I absolutely loved this book!

— Michèle Assaf
Producer, Director/Choreographer;
Founder/Artistic Director, World Dance Movement – The International Festival

Ballet for Life is an enjoyable, informative and inspiring account of a performing career that happened during a time of rapid ascendancy for American ballet. Finis was in the heart of it; his influence as a performing artist and as a teacher cuts across a broad swath of ballet companies stylistically, geographically and generationally. This memoir is an illuminating account of his own career, of falling down and getting up and of moving forward. Using captivating photography as his inspiration, Finis guides us through his remarkable life story. He is an important contributor to ballet in America. Finis’s that contribution is both revealed and enhanced in his pictorial memoir that can be readily enjoyed by anyone.”

— Daniel Duell
Artistic Director, Ballet Chicago

Wonderfully personal, intimate and engaging, Finis beautifully shares all the challenges, self-doubts, hard work and triumphant exhilaration that he experienced as he developed his craft and artistry. His extraordinary performances with the Harkness Ballet made an indelible impression on all who were lucky enough to witness them. His post-performance career as a preeminent ballet teacher is clearly the result of his humility, spirituality and his appreciation of every student’s unique gifts. Generations of his students are grateful!”

— Joan Finkelstein
Executive Director, The Harkness Foundation for Dance

“Not surprisingly, Finis writes in the same manner in which he teaches and lives: truthfully, insightfully, unapologetically. While most ballet instructors teach and pass on unchangeable systems of ballet technique, Finis insists on an ever-evolving application of empirical, demonstrable, kinetic truths. His is a profound simplicity distilled from years and years of keen observation and tireless application. Read his story and consider his insights. You’re sure to find yourself growing, both in and out of the studio.

— Lawrence Rosenberg
Executive Director, Anaheim Ballet;
Dance Faculty, Chapman University

“From the very first photo of two-year-old Finis (ankles gently crossed in potential 5th position) until the last, I could not put down this inspiring, moving story of a life lived in service to dance. Finis offers abundant insights into his rich journey and his guiding Buddhist philosophy as he celebrates family, luminaries and humble students alike. While placing each deeply described and illustrated memory into vivid historical context, he teaches and entertains — and we learn, laugh and cry with him. I will return to this engrossing memoir again and again.”

— Barbara Forbes
Feldenkrais Practitioner;
Dance Faculty, Sara Lawrence College

“Like my favorite choreography, Ballet For Life: A Pictorial Memoir flows easily with frequent surprise twists and turns. We follow Finis’s journey from the adorable five-year old in World War II Hawaii (with the required gas mask around his neck!) to the man of wisdom and humor whom the ballet world both reveres and adores. Finis’s memoir will touch every dancer’s heart. Be prepared to smile, groan, cheer and tear up. Hesitate not. Read this book now!

— Marie Paquet Nesson
Author, Ballet to the Corps

“Finis Jhung dreamed an impossible dream, but that didn’t stop him from reaching for the stars. In the process, he became the inspiration for many of us who did not fit into traditional dance molds. Every dancer felt welcomed among the throngs of ballet stars crowding his studio — all of us clamoring to sign in before the class filled up. Finis’s book reads like a dance history journal, full of iconic personalities spanning the worlds of ballet, Broadway and film. Most touching are his frank descriptions of his own shortcomings — which, in time, informed his teaching. Perhaps the biggest takeaway: above all else, one must remain inquisitive and discerning. This book is a must-read for all who love dance!

—Bonnie Oda Homsey
Director, Los Angeles Dance Foundation;
Chair of Dance, The Princess Grace Foundation USA

“This extraordinary book beautifully shows the connection between the past and the future, illustrated with a treasure trove of photography. Here on the page is Finis the dancer, Buddhist, mentor and teacher extraordinaire in warm, personal, prose! I love all of it!

— Julie Caprio
Artistic Director, Ballet Technique and Hamilton Ballet Theatre

“For the first time, dance legend and luminary Finis Jhung shares his incredible story of finding strength and balance through ballet and Buddhism. Even as a young boy, Finis knew that his path to fulfillment was through dance. The dreams of a child are not fulfilled by magic, nor deterred by distance or divides. From the chaos of World War II Hawaii through a marvelous professional career crossing continents and cultures, Finis’s passion for ballet has lit his way. Ballet for Life is Finis Jhung’s first-ever complete retelling of his singular experiences. Travel with Finis on his inspirational journey from his humble childhood home in Hawaii through his career on Broadway and beyond. Enjoy his distinctly witty perspective and profound teachings that have helped him to overcome life’s hardship and heartaches. More than merely a celebration of a remarkable career, Ballet for Life is a tribute to the many wonderful and compassionate people that made it all possible. Today, Finis’s story continues and he credits ballet and Buddhism for the spirit and vitality that allow him to keep coming up with new and better ways to teach. At the heart of personal growth is a focus on the future that has prevented a formal retrospective — until now.”

— Robert Solomon
Writer, Publicist

Ballet for Life proves that hard work and determination can overcome any obstacle. Through his teaching, Finis transformed how I see movement. I became a better student because of his quest to understand how the movement ‘actually happens.’ Now my mentor, who continually opens my eyes and inspires me, Finis brings his unique voice and faith to the page. We will all learn from his journey.

—Beverly Spell
Leap ’N Learn

Domestic Orders $10 – first copy
$3 – additional copies
Canada $26
Mexico $33
All Other Countries $35