Add These 8 Dance Books to Your Holiday Wish List

December 14, 2022

We breathe, eat and sleep dance. Why not read it, too? This has been a banner year for dance books—we’ve already shared news about the release of Toni Bentley’s Serenade, Jennifer Homans’ Mr. B: George Balanchine’s 20th Century and more. And the list is expanding.

During your downtime this holiday season, curl up with one of these eight reads to expand your dance education. Covering a variety of interests, from history to health and narrative, there’s one for everyone on your gift list.

The Wind at My Back: Resilience, Grace, and Other Gifts from My Mentor, Raven Wilkinson, by Misty Copeland, with Susan Fales-Hill

A book cover. Misty Copeland, in an Odette costume (white tutu, headpiece, ballet tights and pointe shoes), accepts a bouquet of flowers from Raven Wilkinson, who wears a red dress. White text reads "Misty Copeland" and "The Wind at My Back"
Courtesy Grand Central Publishing.

Trailblazing American Ballet Theatre principal and New York Times bestselling author Misty Copeland adds to her writing repertoire with her newest memoir. A testament to true mentorship and shared history, The Wind at My Back tells the story of Copeland’s friendship with the late Raven Wilkinson (1935–2018). Copeland honors Wilkinson’s invaluable contributions to the art form as a pioneering Black ballerina in the 20th century, reflecting on the shared experiences they understood in each other across generations—experiences each would call upon to pave the way for a better future. (Grand Central Publishing, 2022)

Dance Theatre of Harlem: A History, A Movement, A Celebration, by Judy Tyrus and Paul Novosel

A book cover. A Black ballerina poses on pointe in a short mint green ballet dress, her legs apart as if walking forward, and her arms curved behind her as she lifts her chest up. Photographs are in circles behind her. Text reads "Dance Theatre of Harlem"
Courtesy Judy Tyrus.

Ballet historians and enthusiasts alike know the power of a standout historical narrative. Judy Tyrus and Paul Novosel present just that with Dance Theatre of Harlem: A History, A Movement, A Celebration. With exclusive backstage stories and archival material, including hundreds of original photographs, the book follows DTH’s journey from basement haven to one of the most groundbreaking and revered ballet companies to date. (Kensington Publishing Corp., 2021)

Diaghilev’s Empire: How the Ballets Russes Enthralled the World, by Rupert Christiansen

A book cover. In black and white with pink tones, a photograph of an early Ballets Russes promotional image. Text reads "Diaghilev's Empire."
Courtesy Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

How did a Russian patron and impresario without any dance training manage to create one of the most heralded ballet companies in history? Diaghilev’s Empire, Rupert Christiansen’s entertaining account of Sergei Diaghilev and the rise of the Ballets Russes, aims to answer that question, with hefty historical analysis livened by wit and engaging composition that sets his rendition apart. (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2022)

Dance Vision: Dance Through the Eyes of Today’s Artists, by Joshua Teal

A book cover with a black and white photograph of a male and female dancer in a geometric pose on the right side of the cover. Pink text says "Dance Vision."
Courtesy Cernunnos.

In his first-ever book, San Francisco–based ballet dancer, teaching artist and writer Joshua Teal weaves together the unique perspectives of 50 renowned contemporary artists whose works are inspired by dance. A homage to the art form through photography, sculpture, illustration and more, Dance Vision: Dance Through the Eyes of Today’s Artists works to expand our understanding of how visual art and dance intersect. (Cernunnos, 2022)

Why Dance Matters, by Mindy Aloff

A book cover. White background with red line-drawn figures and grey and blue text reading "Why Dance Matters" and "Mindy Aloff."
Courtesy Yale University Press

Dance—the ultimate expression. We know it from personal experience, as does veteran dance critic Mindy Aloff. In her newest work, Why Dance Matters, due out in January 2023, Aloff puts words to the feelings we know and explores the aesthetic, social and spiritual effects of dance on human life as a vehicle for entertainment, observance, storytelling, self-discovery and more. This thought-provoking tribute to the art form reveals the transcendent power of dance as a language—and, ultimately, why it matters. (Yale University Press, 2023. Available for preorder.)

Dynamic Alignment Through Imagery, Third Edition, by Eric N. Franklin

A textbook cover. Figures lunge in a yoga "triangle" pose with colorful streaks. Text reads "Dynamic Alignment Through Imagery."
Courtesy Human Kinetics.

With new, full-color visual aids and updated material and exercises, Dynamic Alignment Through Imagery, Third Edition, is an engaging and thorough resource to help dancers increase self-awareness, improve body image and achieve their most efficient movement. Internationally renowned dancer, movement educator and choreographer Eric N. Franklin uses well-crafted imagery to make anatomical and biomechanical principles accessible to movers of all kinds. (Human Kinetics, 2022)

Essentials of Dance Psychology, by Sanna Nordin-Bates

A textbook cover. The outline of a boy's head looking up acts as a frame for a photograph of a young man hinging back in front of a blue sky, whipping his open button-down shirt up behind him for dramatic effect. Text reads "Essentials of Dance Psychology."
Courtesy Human Kinetics.

In recent years, professionals and students alike have begun to pay attention to how sports psychology applies to dance. Now, there’s a textbook dedicated to just that, made specifically for dancers and teachers. Sanna Nordin-Bates delves into why dancers think and behave the way they do, how to cultivate healthy dance environments, what goes into optimal performance and more in Essentials of Dance Psychology. (Human Kinetics, 2022)

The Art of Ballet Accompaniment: A Comprehensive Guide, by Gerald R. Lishka

A book cover. A blurry photograph of a ballet studio with a piano in the foreground and a female dancer adjusting her hair in the midground. Text reads "Art of Ballet Accompaniment."
Courtesy Indiana University Press.

Concert pianist, recording artist and revered ballet accompanist Gerald R. Lishka’s latest book is not only a complete manual for ballet accompanists, but a valuable resource for dancers and dance educators. With a foreword by former New York City Ballet principal Kyra Nichols, this collection of essential insights on musical support and artistic integrity makes the perfect gift for your favorite class pianist. (Indiana University Press, 2022)