Recommended

What the Eye Hears: A History of Tap Dancing

By Brian Seibert

Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 612 pages; $35

The New York Times dance critic Brian Seibert delivers an illuminating history of tap dance, including its origins in jig and clog dancing; hoofers like Bill “Bojangles" Robinson, the Nicholas Brothers and John Bubbles; and how stars like Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly took it to the silver screen.

Dance to the Piper

By Agnes de Mille

NYRB Classics; 368 pages; $17.95

Twentieth-century choreographer Agnes de Mille is famous for her ballets and Broadway works, including Rodeo, Oklahoma! and Fall River Legend. In her 1951 memoir, now released in a new edition with an introduction by dance writer Joan Acocella, de Mille tells her story with humor and candor.

Comments on Jazz Dance, 1996–2014

By Bob Boross

Bob Boross; 244 pages; $11.99

Matt Mattox disciple Bob Boross, who is on faculty at Shenandoah Conservatory and directs Bob Boross Freestyle Jazz Dance, has gathered nearly two decades of his writings on jazz dance history, style and philosophy.

Swing Dance: Fashion, Music, Culture and Key Moves

By Scott Cupit

Jacqui Small LLP; 192 pages; $29.99

Four major styles of swing dance—the Charleston, collegiate shag, Balboa and Lindy Hop—are covered in this comprehensive manual by Australian swing dance expert Scott Cupit. Swing Dance is full of step-by-step instructions, historical tidbits, musical selections for each dance and beautiful photos.

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Technique
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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