When I began ballet, I found it useful and encouraging to know something about what I was getting into.
A few books and sites I found useful:
1. ABT ballet dictionary: a wonderful online dictionary of ballet terms and steps. The first and most daunting thing about ballet is probably the language; it’s in French, and most teachers will use the French terms as opposed to describing the motion (i.e. 4 pliés instead of “bend your knees four times”). Click on a term or step in this dictionary and there are images and videos to make the term clear.
2. Ballet talk for adult ballet students: a great community here for all different levels of ballet students. I used to read this board frequently (never did any posts, though). If you have a burning question about what’s going on in class, this is a great place to ask it. There is also some excellent information in the archives; and a great sticky on adult summer intensives, if you’re so inclined!
3. Joffrey Ballet’s Ballet Fit: a guide geared specifically towards adult ballet students. Cheap, straightforward, with lots of good general advice. There are also some exercises and descriptions of the overal arc of a ballet class, which is useful. Not a substitute for a real class, of course! There is a section on pointe in the back for the especially ambitious. Of all the books I read when starting out, this one was the best in terms of practical application.
4. The Ballet Companion: not specifically created for adult students, but a beautifully illustrated guide with descriptions of positions and ballet history. Also discusses non-ballet dance, such as jazz and modern. An elegant book.
5. Classical Ballet Technique (Recommended by puddle): I don’t own this book, but it looks to be an excellent resource for positions and steps. Over 2600 photographs, featuring dancers from ABT and the Joffrey.
Have more? Put them in the comments and I’ll add them!