6 Classic Dance Books You Should Read Right Now
Updated: Aug 9
After last week's prep list for the upcoming Fosse/Verdon premiere, I received requests to start a list of dance books to read. There is a ton of autobiographies out there, but I find the most interesting ones are published after a dancer or choreographer retires — writing an autobiography in the middle of your career is incomplete. So that will explain why you won't find any of these types of books on my recommended list.
I am going to start out with six books that are dance-industry standards. Most of you will recognize the names or the titles of the books because they are timeless. It's a great time to get a jump on summer reading and a few will definitely be the perfect book to bring to the beach or the pool on a hot summer day. This list also spans all ages, so if you are looking for the perfect gift, I have you covered.
1. On the Line by Robert Viagas, Baayork Lee and Thommie Walsh
This book covers everything about the industry you need to know — artists learning to protect their image and work, the reality of a dance career and making something so special that it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Jeff Thacker mentioned in our To The Pointe interview this week that A Chorus Line was the inspiration for So You Think You Can Dance — mind blown.
2. Dancing Man: A Broadway Choreographer's Journey by Bob Avian with Tom Santopietro
This is a fantastic complementary book to On The Line. Avian was Michael Bennett's co-choreographer on A Chorus Line, Dream Girls and more. It gives you multilayers of perspective on these classic Broadway shows. If you are also a fan of the dance documentary, Every Little Step, you will recognize Avian right away.
This 2014 children's book has gorgeous illustrations and a great message that makes it a really inspiring gift to give to a young dancer. For anyone who is struggling with self-doubt, this story offers words of wisdom through the imagery of Firebird. Adults, it will inspire you, too.
4. Dancing On My Grave by Gelsey Kirkland
If you are looking for a book that's dramatic and has the twists and turns of a Bravo TV show, but isn't scripted, then look no further than Gelsey Kirkland's memoir. This 1986 book isn't for the faint of heart — drug addiction, affairs and eating disorders (Trigger Warning) — but it shares a tale of caution when you're at the top of your game.
Kirkland followed it up with a second book in 1989 because the first book was a massive hit — it's called The Shape of Love. It isn't as good as her debut autobiography, but it's a good way to get closure to her story.
5. A Very Young Dancer by Jill Krementz
It's hard to believe this book came out in 1976, but it's a classic that I can't leave off this list. It follows a 10-year-old young dancer at the School of American Ballet during Nutcracker season. If you have a dancer obsessed with ballet, this book should get them excited for Nutcracker 2019.
Yes, the photos are old school at this point, but this was one of the few dance books available to kids during this era. They didn't have Maddie Ziegler and JT Church to look up to. How the dance world has changed!
If you want to follow-up on what happened to Stephanie DePierro, the young dancer featured in the book, read this 2011 New York Times article that gave a somewhat sad update on her.
6. Dancers Among Us: A Celebration of Joy in the Everyday by Jordan Matter
Jordan Matter is an internet sensation as a dance photographer, but it's his 2012 book that really kicked off the phenomenon. He's published two other books, Dancers After Dark in 2016 and Born to Dance: Celebrating the Wonder of Childhood in 2018. These are terrific coffee-table books and the perfect gift for any dance lover.
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