12 Must-Have Dance Education Books of 2023
December 19, 2023

A beautiful array of books on dance were released in 2023. But that’s not to forget the noteworthy titles of 2022. From biography to photography to collected essays exploring themes such as anti-racism in ballet, art-making in small towns, and more, these 12 dance education titles are a must-have on your bookshelf.

On Teaching

Roots and Wings: Virginia Tanner’s Dance Life and Legacy, by Mary-Elizabeth Manley, chronicles Tanner’s life (1915–1979) as one of the luminaries in the dance education field and creative dance pedagogy. Tanner was also founder of the Tanner Dance program in Salt Lake City, which continues to be one of the largest creative-based studio programs in the country. 

Antiracism in Ballet Teaching, edited by Kate Mattingly and Iyun Ashani Harrison, just released this month, is a critical new edition with extensive essays and interviews looking at teaching, leadership, and the future of ballet. Many voices and perspectives add rich depth—questioning, challenging, and dismantling longstanding practices and biases within the form.

Making Change: Teaching Artists and Their Role in Shaping a Better World is a series of essays that pull together many of Eric Booth’s longtime themes within arts education. Booth has been one of the leaders in the field of “teaching artistry” for the past few decades, working with organizations like the Lincoln Center Institute and Kennedy Center. Inspirational and aspirational, it is a great read for new and seasoned educators alike to consider purpose and relevance at this time.

On Ballet

Two fabulous coffee-table photography books are beautiful gifts to consider this holiday season. Henry Leutwyler’s Misty Copeland captures this prima ballerina on the page. Keywords include: “stunning,” “strong,” and “solo.” Leutwyler is known for photographing New York City Ballet, and this book celebrates a new collaboration with ABT prima ballerina Misty Copeland. In addition, from the photographer for the Brown Girls Do Ballet project, TaKiyah Wallace-McMillian’s vibrant coffee-table book The Color of Dance: A Celebration of Diversity and Inclusion in the World of Ballet includes nearly 200 images of both professional and aspiring dancers from around the country. Wallace-McMillian captured artists of African, Asian, East Indian, Hispanic, and Native American heritage. Dancers are also quoted throughout the pages—a true inspiration for dancers of all ages. 

Diving into the biography genre, The Boy from Kyiv: Alexei Ratmansky’s Life in Ballet is an incredible, hefty documentation of Ratmansky’s journey and life work. Dance critic Marina Harss took on this project for nearly two decades to capture in 496 pages the story of Ratmansky, who has created nearly 100 ballets and is touted as one of the artists reimagining the art form. Ratmansky has worked at the Moscow Kirov Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, and pretty much every major ballet company. This book is an exploration of his voice and artistry. 

The Art of Ballet Accompaniment: A Comprehensive Guide, by Gerald R. Lishka, is a must-have for ballet teachers and accompanists alike to extensively explore music for the class. Lishka meticulously covers every aspect—the basic structure of a class, observing classes, playing for the barre, playing for center work, adapting pieces of music, and much more. 

On Language 

Two new titles inspire deeper study about our practices. Dance and Ethics: Moving Towards a More Humane Dance Culture is an imperative read for this time. Author Naomi M. Jackson tackles ethical questions in dance from its many facets in teaching, dancemaking, and presenting. Its dense text explores self-reflection and leadership in schools, universities, and dance communities. It asks: How are we behaving, building healthy boundaries, and clarifying in writing to support the mental and physical well-being of dancers? What does “care” really look like in the studio, classroom, and on the stage?

Megan Nicely’s book also seriously considers our words in the studio. Experimental Dance and the Somatics of Language: Thinking in Micromovement is for dance artists and graduate students alike and offers a deep exploration of how language evokes movement and how words lead to sensations. Nicely explores postmodern dance, somatics, and butoh within her research. This book is an inspiring and compelling new read for graduate students and researchers around somatics, phenomenology, postmodern dance, and butoh. 

For College Courses

The Art of Dance Composition: Writing the Body, by professor Jenefer Davies, brings two decades of teaching work into a new textbook for beginning composition courses exploring modern dance. She covers processes, how to shape material, sources of inspiration, use of technology, and improvisation.

Milestones in Dance in the USA, edited by Elizabeth McPherson, is one of the most exciting new paperbacks on the scene. It includes 10 different voices and a wide range of forms and styles—from Native American dance to tap to postmodern. Foregrounding discussions and intersectionality with race, gender, and current events makes this an exciting, essential new text as we reconsider and reimagine teaching college-level dance history courses. The book also includes a useful appendix, with a timeline of both events in U.S. history and dance history, as well as a glossary of terms—words coming from history and from dance. 

For Arts Administrators

On the heels of his textbook Managing Arts Organizations, David Andrew Snider’s Managing the Arts in Rural Areas nurtures and supports a vital fabric throughout the U.S. Snider foregrounds 12 organizations led by artists of color and female-identifying artists. The book addresses both the why and the how of arts in rural communities and sheds specific light on this important sector of the arts.

Also, in case you missed it, this spring book roundup shared 10 books from early 2023.

So find a book for new-year inspiration, share the list with your graduate students, and encourage your school to buy a few new titles for the studio or staff bookshelf as we all head into the new year.

Subscribe to our newsletters

Sign up for any or all of these newsletters

You have Successfully Subscribed!