3 Books Dance Teachers Should Read This Year

1. Ballet: The Definitive Illustrated Story

By Viviana Durante, former principal dancer for The Royal Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Teatro alla Scala and Japan's K-Ballet

$27.19 on Amazon

Viviana Durante presents a history of ballet, including its origins at royal court, the first national ballet companies and contemporary works, and more than 70 famous ballet dances, including The Nutcracker, Swan Lake and The Rite of Spring. The book also tells the stories behind the world's most beloved dancers across the centuries: Margot Fonteyn, Carlos Acosta, and Darcey Bussell, among them. It's a ballet enthusiast's dream!

2. Marius Petipa: The Emperor's Ballet Master

By Nadine Meisner, dance critic for The Independent, The Sunday Times and The Times

$31.92 on Amazon

Dance critic Nadine Meisner gives a detailed look into the life and legacy of famed choreographer Marius Petipa in her latest biography. This book details his work within the context of the sociopolitical tensions 1818–1910. Petipa created works that are now mainstays of the ballet repertoire, including Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty, Don Quixote and La Bayadère.

This is a must-read for dance teachers!

3. Ted Shawn: His Life, Writings, and Dances

By Paul A. Scolieri, chair and associate professor of dance at Barnard College, Columbia University

$39.95 on Amazon

Ted Shawn: His Life, Writings, and Dances tells the history of one of the pioneers of American Modern Dance. Wrier Paul A. Scolieri takes an in-depth look into the creation of Denishawn (company and training school in Los Angeles Shawn co-founded with famed dancer and choreographer Ruth St. Denis), the first all-male company in America (Ted Shawn and His Men Dancers) and Jacob's Pillow. The book makes a notable revelation regarding the ways Shawn's homosexuality informed his choreographic vision. Check it out!

Nan Melville, courtesy Genn

Not so long ago, it seemed that ballet dancers were always encouraged to pull up away from the floor. Ideas evolved, and more recently it has become common to hear teachers saying "Push down to go up," and variations on that concept.

Charla Genn, a New York City–based coach and dance rehabilitation specialist who teaches company class for Dance Theatre of Harlem, American Ballet Theatre and Ballet Hispánico, says that this causes its own problems.

"Often when we tell dancers to go down, they physically push down, or think they have to plié more," she says. These are misconceptions that keep dancers from, among other things, jumping to their full potential.

To help dancers learn to efficiently use what she calls "Mother Marley," Genn has developed these clever techniques and teaching tools.

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Teachers Trending
Alwin Courcy, courtesy Ballet des Amériques

Carole Alexis has been enduring the life-altering after-effects of COVID-19 since April 2020. For months on end, the Ballet des Amériques director struggled with fevers, tingling, dizziness and fatigue. Strange bruising showed up on her skin, along with the return of her (long dormant) asthma, plus word loss and stuttering.

"For three days I would experience relief from the fever—then, boom—it would come back worse than before," Alexis says. "I would go into a room and not know why I was there." Despite the remission of some symptoms, the fatigue and other debilitating side effects have endured to this day. Alexis is part of a tens-of-thousands-member club nobody wants to be part of—she is a COVID-19 long-hauler.

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Teachers Trending

Annika Abel Photography, courtesy Griffith

When the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May catalyzed nationwide protests against systemic racism, the tap community resumed longstanding conversations about teaching a Black art form in the era of Black Lives Matter. As these dialogues unfolded on social media, veteran Dorrance Dance member Karida Griffith commented infrequently, finding it difficult to participate in a meaningful way.

"I had a hard time watching people have these conversations without historical context and knowledge," says Griffith, who now resides in her hometown of Portland, Oregon, after many years in New York City. "It was clear that there was so much information missing."

For example, she observed people discussing tap while demonstrating ignorance about Black culture. Or, posts that tried to impose upon tap the history or aesthetics of European dance forms.

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