Two years has passed since our last list of recommendations for Christmas gifts for the dance lovers in your life (check it out here); time for another round-up of fascinating and enjoyable reads featured by Oxford Dance Writers, to ease your Christmas shopping travails or request for your own Christmas stocking… Special thanks to Maggie Watson whose many informative and insightful reviews will help you choose the ideal gift…

First up a couple of recent books to enthuse and inform aspiring dancers and balletomanes – perfect Christmas presents:

The Ballet Lover’s Companion, by Zoë Anderson. Yale University Press, 2015

Zoë Anderson has compiled 140 ballets in a comprehensive survey of the repertoire, organised historically and geographically.  A sumptuous and enjoyable gift; read Maggie Watson’s review here. You can buy this book here

Being a Dancer: Advice from Dancers and Choreographers, by Lyndsey Winship.   London, Nick Hern Books, 2015.

Lyndsey Winship has interviewed a selection of major dancers and choreographers and the result is a must-have compendium of practical and inspiring advice for those contemplating a career in dance.  Read Maggie Watson’s review here, and find out more about this book and buy it here

Biographies:  Three works about remarkable ballerinas of the 19th, 20th and 21st century

Fanny Elssler by Ivor Guest, 1970 reprinted by Dance Books 2014

A welcome reappearance of a classic biography of one of the Romantic ballet’s legendary ballerinas, Ivor Guest’s remarkable work of scholarship brings the artist and the period to life; essential reading for those interested in ballet’s history.  Read Maggie Watson’s review here and order from Dance Books here

Balanchine and the lost muse: revolution and the making of a choreographer, by Elizabeth Kendall. Oxford University Press, 2013.

Meticulous research by Kendall sheds fascinating light on a turbulent period of ballet’s history and foregrounds a little known dancer who worked with and arguably was a lasting inspiration for George Balanchine.  Maggie Watson enjoyed its scholarly discussion and speculation, read her review here and buy the book here

Hope in a Ballet Shoe: orphaned by war, saved by ballet, by Michaela and Elaine DePrince. Faber & Faber, 2015

This moving and inspiring book tells the extraordinary story of how Mabinty Bangura from Sierra Leone survived war, famine, cruelty and prejudice to end up dancing with Dutch National Ballet under the name Michaela DePrince.  Maggie Watson could not put it down and strongly recommends it for a wider readership; read her review here.  You can find more information and purchase the book here

Oral history

Never far from dancing:  ballet artists in new roles, by Barbara Newman.  Routledge, 2014 

Over 30 years ago, established critic Barbara Newman embarked on a series of in depth interviews with great dancers about dancing, and for this book she returned to those who were still alive to find out what they had to say about their subsequent choices and their opinions on dance today.  Essential reading highlighting practitioners’ experiences and insights.  Read Maggie Watson’s review here and buy the book here

Dance in academia: a selection from recent dance scholarship

Ballet, Why and How? On the role of classical ballet in dance education  Brown, Derrick and Vos, Minke edit. Arnhem, ArtEZ Press, 2014

This thought-provoking volume is an edited collection of papers and presentations from the conference Ballet, Why and How? Illuminating the role of ballet in the vocational education and the professional life of today’s dancer, held in Holland in 2012.  Susie Crow ponders a range of provocations, perspectives and reflections from distinguished practitioners and academics about “the position and value of classical technique for the dancer today”; read her review here.  You can buy this book here

Embodied politics: dance, protest and identities  by Stacey Prickett.  Alton, Hampshire, Dance Books 2103

Stacey Prickett considers dance activism firstly in the US and then in Britain in the 1920s and 1930s, before turning to look at developments in the San Francisco Bay area around the turn of the 21st century and finally the South Asian dance movement in Britain, in four discrete but interlinked essays.  Maggie Watson found it an excellent starting point for exploring a growing area of dance scholarship; read her review here and purchase a copy here

Thinking through dance: the philosophy of dance performance and practices  Jenny Bunker, Anna Pakes and Bonnie Rowell (eds). Dance Books Ltd., 2013 

In her review here Dana Mills welcomes this thoughtfully compiled collection of essays exploring a range of philosophical perspectives on dance, an addition that she hopes will encourage discussion of dance in philosophical contexts.  Topics covered include embodiment, the tension between dance as work and as performance, representation and expression, and dance itself as philosophy.  Required reading for dance scholars and philosophers; order it from Dance Books Ltd. here

When Men Dance: Choreographing Masculinity Across Borders  Fisher, J. and Shay A. edit.  Oxford University Press USA, 2009

This collection of essays tackling issues of gender in dance is wide ranging both historically and geographically, taking forward important discussions of masculinity.  Interspersed between some fascinating studies Rachel Gildea particularly enjoyed the personal histories of male dance practitioners; read her review here.  Available in hardback, paperback and eBook here

Walking and dancing: three years of dance in London 1951–1953  Larraine Nicholas.  Noverre Press, 2013

Larraine Nicholas takes the reader on a series of imaginary walks, leading us through London’s remarkable dance landscape during three years at the start of the 1950s.  Scholarly research and writing at its most enjoyable.  Read Maggie Watson’s review here, and buy it from Dance Books here

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

In a major work of scholarship, Susan Jones brings together deep knowledge of both literature and dance.  This first extended study of the relationship between dance and literary modernism opens up new ways of thinking about modernism by showing the dialogue between dance and literary aesthetics, and explores the close interrelationships between choreographers and writers of this period.  Essential reading for understanding the development of dance in the 20th century.  Read more about it here and purchase it here

And finally…

Swimming horses: Mal Pelo, edited by María Muñoz, with photographs by Jordi Bover.   Published by Mal Pelo, 2013.

This beautiful book of images, philosophical musings and conversations about creative process celebrates the work of the company Mal Pelo, a dance collaboration between María Muñoz and Pep Ramis.  Maggie Watson found it lovely and puzzling; read her review here and buy it here

Enjoy!  And best wishes for a Happy Christmas from Oxford Dance Writers…

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