Books on how to dance

Top 50 Best Books for Dancers

Written by Elizabeth Emery

October 24, 2019

Looking for the best books for dancers? Maybe you’re searching for the perfect gift for your dance teacher, one of your friends who loves dance or a family member – or maybe you’re looking to treat yourself! Well, not to worry. We at Dance Teacher Finder have put together a list of the best books for dancers. These are books that can inspire, motivate and educate. The first on the list, Gail Grant’s Technical Manual and Dictionary of Classical Ballet, has been a favorite resource as a ballet teacher for many years. All of the books, though, have something amazing they can offer for dance teachers, dance students and simply lovers of dance.

  1. Technical Manual and Dictionary of Classical Ballet
  2. NYC Ballet Workout: Fifty Stretches And Exercises Anyone Can Do For A Strong, Graceful, And Sculpted Body
  3. Ballet Pedagogy: The Art of Teaching
  4. Ballet – an Illustrated History
  5. Dance Anatomy
  6. Tapworks: A Tap Dictionary and Reference Manual
  7. African American Dance: An Illustrated History
  8. Jazz Dance Class
  9. Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina
  10. The Vision of Modern Dance: In the Words of Its Creators
  11. Group Motion in Practice: Collective Creation Through Dance Movement Improvisation
  12. The 1st Three Years of Dance: Teaching Tips, Monthly Lesson Plans, and Syllabi for Successful Dance Classes
  13. Jitterbug Sketchbook
  14. 101 Stories of the Great Ballets: the Scene-by-scene Stories of the Most Popular Ballets, Old and New
  15. What the Eye Hears: A History of Tap Dancing
  16. Basic Principles of Classical Ballet
  17. The Colourful World of Ballet
  18. Conditioning for Dance: Training for Whole-Body Coordination and Efficiency
  19. The Tap Dance Dictionary
  20. How to Teach Beginning Ballet: The First Three Years
  21. Dance : A Creative Art Experience
  22. Ballet & Modern Dance: A Concise History
  23. The Souls of Your Feet: A Tap Dance Guidebook for Rhythm Explorers
  24. The Art of Making Dances
  25. Classic Ballet : Basic Technique and Terminology
  26. The Illustrated Dance Technique of José Limón
  27. Ballet: The Definitive Illustrated Story
  28. Talk About Contemporary Dance
  29. The Dancer’s Foot Book
  30. Classical Ballet Technique
  31. The Dancer Prepares: Modern Dance for Beginners
  32. Tap Dance Fundamentals for Higher Education
  33. Creative Dance for All Ages
  34. The Pointe Book: Shoes, Training, Technique
  35. Beginning Modern Dance
  36. Ballet Basics
  37. Dance Production and Management
  38. Jump into Jazz: The Basics and Beyond for Jazz Dance Students
  39. Dance Imagery for Technique and Performance
  40. In the Wings: Behind the Scenes at the New York City Ballet
  41. Inside Tap: Technique and Improvisation for Today’s Tap Dancer
  42. Contact Improvisation : An Introduction to a Vitalizing Dance Form
  43. Language of Ballet: A Dictionary
  44. Tapping The Source: Tap Dance Stories, Theory And Practice
  45. Dance Technique of Lester Horton
  46. Dance Composition
  47. How to Teach Preschool Ballet:: A Guidebook for Teachers
  48. The Essential Guide to Tap Dance
  49. Beginning Jazz Dance
  50. Dance Units for Middle School



About Elizabeth Emery

Elizabeth Emery is a former dance studio owner. She owned Dancers Unite in Charlotte, NC for 6 years, where she helped run the studio as well as taught dance classes six days a week. She sold her studio to one of her teachers and now dedicates her time helping other dance studio owners as well as dance teachers with her new business, Dance Teacher Finder, which helps pair dance studios with dance instructors. She also holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, and double majored in Business Economics and Marketing. Elizabeth currently splits her time between Charlotte, North Carolina and Salt Lake City, Utah.

Dance Instructors

The Dancer's Reading List: 8 Books You'll Love

There’s nothing like spending a Saturday afternoon curled up with a cup of tea and a good book. And at Dance Spirit, we’re here to put a dance twist on any activity. So, naturally, we’ve put together a list of eight books we think dancers will love.

Whether giving you a glimpse into the lives of your favorite dance celebs of yore or offering a fictionalized account of life in an elite dance school, we think these books will provide major dance-spiration.

1. Misty Copeland,

Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina, 2014

Dance autobiography plays a special role in the canon of dance writing. Before the advent of social media, autobiography was one of the few places where a dancer’s voice could be heard. Though Misty Copeland’s Life in Motion was published in 2014, it still offers readers a compelling look into this then-rising star’s reflections on the challenges of her young life, and her arduous climb to American Ballet Theatre.

Life in Motion
came out just before Copeland was promoted to principal at ABT, becoming the first Black ballerina to hold that mantle. In this memoir, co-written with Charisse Jones, Copeland outlines her tumultuous childhood spent in and out of poverty, the custody battle between her mother and her ballet teacher, her struggle with disordered eating, and the racial discrimination she faced along the way.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Misty Copeland (@mistyonpointe)

2. Agnes de Mille,

Dance to the Piper, 1951

Agnes de Mille was an original multi-hyphenate. Born into a famous theatrical family in 1905, de Mille was equal parts choreographer and writer. She was also a dancer in her own right, directed her own company, and made big splashes in the worlds of both ballet and Broadway. Though de Mille passed away in 1993, you probably know her best for her classic ballet Rodeo (recently reimagined by Justin Peck), or for choreographing the musicals Oklahoma!, Brigadoon and Carousel.

De Mille went on to publish 10 other books throughout her career, but Dance to the Piper is her first. This memoir of her early life is chock full of wit, which comes through strongly in her observations of life on tour with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, and her cutting character descriptions (she includes full chapters on greats such as Martha Graham and Anna Pavlova). At times snarky and sensitive, by the end of Dance to the Piper de Mille seems like someone you’d want in your corner—the kind of friend who’d crack you up backstage just before your next entrance.

3. Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton,

Tiny Pretty Things, 2015

Yes, you’ve seen the Netflix show. But before Kylie Jefferson and Barton Cowperwaithe jetéd across the big screen, characters Gigi, Bette and June came to life in Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton’s beloved young adult novel. Tiny Pretty Things—and its 2017 sequel, Shiny Broken Pieces—follows a trio of students at a fictionalized Manhattan ballet school. With chapters alternating between the three protagonists’ points of view, the young hopefuls explore the cutting-edge world of ballet, navigating racial discrimination, eating disorders, addictions, broken friendships and dysfunctional families along the way. We promise you’ll find yourself lost in the twists and turns of Tiny Pretty Things.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Kylie Marie Jefferson (@kyliemjefferson)

4. Brian Seibert,

What the Eye Hears: A History of Tap Dancing, 2015

Calling all hoofers! Any tap dancer worth her salt should spend some time with New York Times dance critic Brian Seibert’s What the Eye Hears: A History of Tap Dancing. This tome to tap follows the art form’s evolution from its origins as a hybrid of British Isles jig, clog dancing and dances brought from Africa by enslaved people. Seibert then tracks tap’s trajectory on the stage, from blackface minstrelsy to its relationship to jazz music and vaudeville, its role in Broadway and Hollywood, its post–World War II decline and its recent rediscovery. Not only does this history illuminate tap’s long-term relationship to pop culture, but it lays out some of the key performers throughout the years, ranging from Master Juba to Shirley Temple to Gene Kelly to Savion Glover. Don’t be intimidated by this book’s length; you can always explore its contents little by little.

5. Patricia Mears,

Ballerina: Fashion’s Modern Muse, 2019

Ballerina: Fashion’s Modern Muse
is one to add to your birthday wish list. This glossy coffee-table book is filled with dazzling photos of dancers dressed in high fashion, and high fashion inspired by dancers. These images lie alongside essays by a number of notable critics and curators outlining ballet’s outsize influence on mid-century fashion, and the equally substantial influence the era’s fashion had on ballet.

Patricia Mears, deputy director of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, put together this anthology in conjunction with 2020’s MFIT exhibit of the same name, which closed prematurely due to the pandemic. But the glitz and glamour are still alive between these pages: Lucky readers can learn about the rise of the ballet flat, drool over Dior and Chanel gowns worn by Margot Fonteyn, read about the popularity of the leotard, see costumes worn by Anna Pavlova, and so much more.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by The Museum At FIT (@museumatfit)

6. Gelsey Kirkland,

Dancing on My Grave: An Autobiography, 1986

After George Balanchine’s death in 1983, the market was flooded with autobiographies of dancers who’d worked with him. While Allegra Kent’s Once a Dancer… and Suzanne Farrell’s Holding on to the Air are both gripping portrayals of artists coming of age, there is truly nothing quite as searingly honest as Gelsey Kirkland’s Dancing on My Grave.

Be warned: This memoir is not for the faint of heart. Kirkland, along with her co-writer and then-husband Greg Lawrence, lays out a no-holds-barred account of her life while dancing for both New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theatre in the 1970s, and the drug addiction that haunted her career. Kirkland also dives into her sibling rivalry, plastic surgeries and complex love affairs with dancers, such as Mikhail Baryshnikov. Dancing on My Grave is out of print, but don’t fear—cheap used copies are readily available online.

7. Padma Venkatraman,

A Time to Dance, 2014

Dive into the world of bharatanatyam with this acclaimed young-adult novel. Padma Venkatraman’s A Time to Dance tells the story of teenager Veda, a classical-dance prodigy in India who, on her way from a dance competition, suffers an accident that leads to a partial leg amputation. In the face of pain and heartbreak, Veda must relearn how to dance, with a prosthesis. Along the way, she also gains an awareness of the class disparities plaguing her country, and learns to incorporate the spiritual tenets of Hinduism and Buddhism into her dance practice. In A Time to Dance, Venkatraman deftly weaves themes of social justice, competition, jealousy, religion, disability and, of course, dance.

8. Jacques d’Amboise,

I Was a Dancer, 2011

Born in 1934, Jacques d’Amboise has truly lived many lives. The former New York City Ballet principal spent more than three decades with the company, working closely with George Balanchine before setting out on his own to found National Dance Institute, a nonprofit that works to bring dance to children around the world.

I Was a Dancer
is a particularly good choice for boys who’ve struggled to defend their passion for dance; d’Amboise outlines his hardscrabble childhood on the streets of Washington Heights in New York City, and the pushback he received once entering the School of American Ballet at age 8. Overflowing with his trademark empathy and humor, d’Amboise also offers a glimpse into the ever-changing worlds of both Broadway and Hollywood.

Read online “How to learn to dance if you are an adult”, Svetlana Ray – LitRes

Illustrator Alex Boy

© Svetlana Ray, 2019


Created by intellectual publishing system Ridero


Our dance world, in which adults learn to dance as a hobby, has one strange feature. For some reason, we are used to treating dancing as something light, entertaining and not serious. However, as I watch my students, I see more and more how dancing changes them. And along with this, life around. The insecure ones become superstars, the sloppy and gray ones become dudes, and the closed ones become the soul of the company.

If you've ever felt the urge to dance, it means that you have a little creative You in you that wants to get out (we'll talk about it later). It quietly reminds you of itself when you hum your favorite song under your breath, tap your finger on the table in time, or imitate Van Damme dancing when no one is watching.

How does this happen?

The way of learning to dance is not easy, our body learns in a difficult way. The brain first needs to find the right muscles, establish a connection with them. And also learn to move body parts at the right moment of rhythm or melody. Imagine you haven't done anything like this for over 25 years!

And this whole process is disrupted when the emotional part of the brain starts tantrums about the fact that you are a log, you look terrible, that everyone is looking at you and nothing will work out at all.

Over time, you overcome this, the process begins to work out for you: the muscles obey, the rhythm starts, the movements look more beautiful. You feel your body, correct inaccuracies, and at the same time learn dozens of new movements.

You also get to know your classmates, learn about those who are popular in your direction. Watch the video, get inspired by events, new music, start to understand everything deeper. You make friends and maybe even a couple of novels.

You start getting feedback from people around you about how cool you are. You begin to feel more confident - not only in dancing, but also in life. Smile more often, dress brighter. And the mood is always upbeat. And there are so many new things ahead - new styles, figures, performances, parties. And what is most pleasant, thoughts appear about what you really want from your life. Do you like what is happening to you? Are you happy?

At this point, many people change jobs, get out of failed relationships, or resolve old conflicts.

Then it happens in different ways: someone goes headlong into this world. Becomes a dancer, then a teacher. Someone is a DJ, a party organizer. Someone is just everyone's favorite and the soul of the community. In any case, your life has already changed. You are happy. You have reached. You are handsome.

So who is this little creative you? This is you. Happy. The you you are going to.

Chapter 1. Find your Teacher

So, you have weighed all the pros and cons for a long time, and finally decided to start dancing.

First you need to decide which style suits you. Now there are dozens of different directions in schools. Ideally, of course, you need to try everything. But if there is no time, then decide on the main criteria:

Couple, group or solo. Do you want to interact with a partner? with yourself or become part of a large team? Do you want to go to parties where you can dance with different partners? To wild parties where jams* and battles* take place? Or participate in concerts?

Modern or folk style?

More physics or psychology?

Below is a small classification. By no means do I claim to be complete. Here are only those styles that are "by ear", one way or another met me during the time of teaching and dancing. At least you will have something to write in the search engine to study the issue in more detail.

Remember that the most important task for you is not to find a style, but to find a Teacher! This person can inspire you, and can lower you below the plinth. That is why I strongly advise you not to go to the first school you come across near your home. That is, of course, it is worth checking - maybe you are lucky. However, it is better to spare no time and conduct a mini-research.

Search the Internet and find out how many schools in your city are leading the direction you have chosen. Who is the most famous teacher? Who opened his school? Who organizes the parties? Write to them, ask what teachers they could recommend. And be sure to come and try to work out with everyone. And, of course, it is worth visiting the places that you liked something else in the search. From the first time, you are unlikely to be able to find exactly your school. There is no need to be shy to go to another place if you don’t like something and don’t “respond”. Dancing should be a source of joy and strength, and not a daily compromise with yourself.

Remember, if you find your teacher, whatever style it is, your life will change for the better from the very first lesson. And it will not matter at all where and when you go and how the hall looks. This place will become your second home.

Therefore, do not risk your nerves, health and money by choosing activities at random.

Now let's figure out how to understand which teacher you are dealing with.

Read the book “Psychology of the body. Dance Therapy» online completely📖 — Elena Tsareva — MyBook.

Composer Elena Tsareva

ISBN 978-5-4498-7086-5

Created in Ridero intellectual publishing system

Body psychology.

What is the book about

This book is about how to combine the two most effective therapies, psychology and dance. How to help people, learn to feel your body again, understand it and hear it. How to work out psychological blocks and problems through the body. The book will tell about:

– What is dance therapy.

- Will teach you to understand the language of dance.

- About the interaction of the brain and body through dance.

– How to train and stretch without pain.

- How to breathe properly when stretching and exercising.

- About what psychosomatics is and how to understand it.

- How to use cognitive empathy in dance.

- About how transformation occurs through free movements.


Greetings, my dear reader! My name is Tsareva Elena, I am a psychologist, parapsychologist and I really love dancing in all its manifestations. I devoted a large part of my life to dancing, but I devoted an even greater part of my life to psychology. At one fine moment, I realized that my two favorite hobbies not only go well together, but logically complement each other.

Since childhood, I dreamed of becoming a ballerina, but having broken my collarbone at the age of three, the doctors strongly advised my parents not to send me to ballet and dancing in general. Therefore, my close acquaintance with dancing happened much later, when at the age of 16, almost in secret, from my parents, I started dancing. I devoted all the free time that I had to training. But it was no longer a sport, but a pleasure for the soul. From that moment to this day, dancing for me is not just a hobby, it's a medicine for the soul, it's a passion, self-expression, part of psychology, it's a body language that is as rich as a verbal form of expression of thought and state. Later, I realized how much there is in common in psychology and dance, how much easier and easier it is to help people, work out their psychological blocks, through the body, without resistance and a mask characteristic of everyone. Since it is the body that is always sincere and truthful.

1 Chapter.

What is dance therapy?

Dance therapy (dance therapy) literally means dance therapy.

The goal of dance therapy is to remove the limitations of the personality.

Dance therapy is useful for everyone, especially those who keep negative emotions in themselves, who are depressed, who have psychological blocks and psychological problems. Dance therapy helps to develop coordination of movements and a sense of rhythm, improves muscle tone, improves metabolism, the functioning of the respiratory and cardiovascular systems, normalizes weight, improves well-being and immunity.

Dance therapy teaches you to control your body, better understand and love your body, develops the ability to communicate through self-expression, expressing your feelings, emotions and moods, helps to express deep subconscious feelings, emotions hidden in the subconscious and get rid of many complexes. And also to cope with stress, raise energy and mood, remove muscle blocks and clamps. During dancing, hormones of happiness are produced - endorphins.

Dance improvisation is a way of spontaneous movement where we can express ourselves and our feelings. A person gains the opportunity to know himself from the inside and feel the integrity of the physical and mental.

In healing dance it is not necessary to have dancing skills, it is important to feel and express yourself in dance.

Dance is a spontaneous transformation of the inner world into movement, in the process of which creativity and the potential to change the old way of life are awakened.

2 Chapter. History of dance therapy

The roots of dance movement therapy go back to ancient civilizations in which dance was an important part of life. For thousands of years in different cultures there have been ritual dances for rituals, invoking spirits, curing the sick, mourning the dead, celebrating weddings and victories, warrior dances helped raise morale so much that warriors recklessly went into battle.

The Egyptians danced the movement of heavenly bodies, the Romans danced in honor of the gods. In Ancient Rus', ritual dances were common, combined with rolling in the dew, jumping over fires, which were timed to coincide with certain seasons. The ancient Greeks could even dance philosophical treatises. And in Africa, until now, in some tribes, the custom has been preserved instead of asking what clan or tribe a person belongs to, they ask what kind of dance he dances. Dance acts as a combination of physical, mental and aesthetic activities. For example, Indian dance, in which the smallest movement of the body can already tell a whole story.

In the 19th century, dance became a formalized means of expression, as exemplified by classical ballet. One of the first who contributed to the revival of creative dance was the famous dancer Isadora Duncan (20th century). It is traditionally believed that the spiritual life of a person is most directly connected with the body, with movements. A therapy that combines work with the body, movements and emotions is dance movement therapy.

Its development was influenced by the psychoanalytic theory, analytical psychology of C. Jung (1961) as a holistic approach to physical and mental health.

The "First Lady" in this type of therapy was considered to be Chace M., who worked at St. Elizabeth in Washington, DC. She developed dance into a therapeutic modality. Working with non-verbal and mental patients, she has achieved great success. Tranquilizers were discovered in the 1950s. Dance movement therapy has emerged as an alternative program for the treatment of mental disorders. In the 1950s and 1960s, dance began to be used as a therapeutic modality for the treatment of emotional disorders. These are Trudy Shoup and Mary Whitehouse, Francesco Bowes and Lilian Espinac. In the 1960s: "human relations training movement", which promoted work with groups and the development of methods for developing self-awareness. In the 70s, research on non-verbal communication, including an analysis of the communicative behavior of the human body. The concept of dance as communication was developed by the dancer Mary Wigman.

Also, the development of dance movement therapy was influenced by psychoanalytic theory, in particular, the views of Wilhelm Reich on the character of a person as a protective shell that restrains instinctive sexual or aggressive manifestations of a person. Reich believed that each manifestation of character has a corresponding physical posture, and that the character of the individual is expressed in his body in the form of muscle rigidity and clamps. According to Reich, a person, having freed himself from the muscular shell with the help of special physical exercises, cognizes his body, realizes his inner impulses and accepts them. With his theory, W. Reich laid the foundation for many well-known systems focused on working with the body in order to improve psychological and physical functioning, such as: bioenergetics, structural integration, the F. Mathias technique, the Feldenkrais method, the sensory awareness system of Charlotte Selver and Charles Brucch.

Learn more