For those who still have Christmas shopping ahead of them and who are wondering what to give the dance enthusiasts in their lives, here is a round-up and reminder of some of the enjoyable and fascinating reads that have come our way this year and been reviewed on Oxford Dance Writers, primarily by our expert reviewer Maggie Watson. As well as biographies and works of dance scholarship, the list includes books for younger readers, and a DVD and CD for the Christmas stocking.  Several things here that will be going on my Christmas list…

Biographies and memoirs

The Last Guru:  Robert Cohan’s Life in Dance, from Martha Graham to London Contemporary Dance Theatre Paul R. W. Jackson, with commentary by Robert Cohan.  Dance Books, 2013

Read Maggie’s review of this wonderful biography of a remarkable artist and teacher, the story of the establishment of contemporary dance in the UK, here.

My two years with Anna Pavlova, by Serge Oukrainsky.  Noverre Press, 2013 (first published 1940), distributed in the UK by Dance Books Ltd.

A entertainingly gossipy and personal memoir about the ballet world in the early 20th century, including first-hand descriptions of the great Anna Pavlova in performance; read Maggie’s review here.

Agony and Ecstasy: my life in dance  Daria Klimentová with Graham Watts.  Metro Publishing, 2013.

The lively and accessible autobiography of one of English National Ballet’s most popular and respected ballerinas, from her early life in Prague through her dancing career in the UK, and including a foreword by Tamara Rojo.  Read Maggie’s review here.

Tatiana Leskova: a ballerina at large, by Suzana Braga, translated by Donald E. Scrimgeour.  Quartet Books, 2012

Maggie thoroughly enjoyed this engaging and illuminating account of the life of a dancer little known here in the UK, but with a fascinating international career.  Read her review here.

Dance scholarship

Literature, Modernism, and Dance  Susan Jones, Oxford University Press, 2013

A study of the of the relationship between dance and literary modernism, this major new work of dance scholarship is written by Doctor Susan Jones of St Hilda’s College, Oxford, formerly a soloist with Scottish Ballet.  Further details here.

Swans of the Kremlin: ballet and power in Soviet Russia  Christina Ezrahi,  University of Pittsburgh Press and Dance Books, 2012

A fascinating historical account of the survival of ballet in post revolutionary Russia, deepening our understanding of the interplay between political and artistic imperatives which shaped Soviet repertoire and the emerging ‘drambalet’. I found it hard to put down.  Read Maggie’s review here.

Frederick Ashton’s Ballets: Style, Performance, Choreography by Geraldine Morris  Dance Books, 2012

Geraldine Morris was herself a dancer with the Royal Ballet under Ashton’s direction, and brings a dancer’s insight to this scholarly and revealing analysis of Ashton’s choreography and style.  Essential reading for understanding the development of British ballet.  Read Maggie’s review here.


Our Lives as Kites  Marius Hancu, CreateSpace  2013 (also available on Kindle)

There are few novels written from the perspective of a ballet dancer, and even more rarely a female choreographer.  This is an admirable attempt to capture the dancer’s inner life, peripatetic existence and creative process.  Read Susie Crow’s review here.

Stars  by Laura and Luke Jennings – Puffin Books, 2013

13 year old Laura Jennings and her father Observer dance critic Luke Jennings have collaborated on this engaging book for 8-12 year old readers about young dancers at a vocational school following their dreams to become professional performers, the first of a series. Dani Boucher reviews it here.

Buy it from Puffin here.

Two suggestions for younger readers itching to dance and perform from Oxford University Press:  the delightful picture book Naughty Toes by Ann Bonwill, and the giggle inducing Wendy Quill is a Crocodile’s Bottom by Wendy Meddour – both hard to resist!  Buy Naughty Toes here and Wendy Quill is a Crocodile’s Bottom here.

CD and DVD

Moving with the Times: music for dance by Malcolm Atkins

Oxford based composer and improviser Malcolm Atkins regularly collaborates with dance artists.  A welcome chance to savour some of his richly varied, haunting and sensitive music for dance.  Read Bruno Guastalla’s review of this album here:

CDR available from the composer: by email, or music download.

Choreography by Bournonville with La Sylphide  DVD ICA Classics Legacy Series

Part of a collection of historic dance performances presented on the ICA audiovisual label, this recording of the Ballet Rambert production of La Sylphide from 1961 with Lucette Aldous and Flemming Flindt is full of style and charm.  Looking forward to sampling more delights from this series.  Read Susie Crow’s review here.