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Understanding Dance

Read About Dance...

Moving words

Along with watching dance and doing dance, reading is another great way to learn more about the art form.

Right here at ArtsAlive.ca you can read about:

Dance writing exists in various formats and for specific purposes. You can read about dance in many different places.

In Newspapers & Magazines

You can find dance writing by journalists, reviewers and critics in newspapers and magazines. Generally, these short, succinct articles promote upcoming performances, provide insight into an artist's work, discuss dance-related issues or topics, or review and critique performances.

Some common formats for this kind of dance writing include previews, reviews, profiles and journal entries.

  • Previews appear in newspapers and magazines in advance of a performance and usually provide the reader with a bit of information about the artist and the upcoming show.
  • Reviews are printed after the performance and discuss the actual presentation.
  • Profiles are short biographies or articles that focus on an artist's life and work. 
  • Journal entries are usually more personal and often begin with the writer's emotional response to the dance.

On the Web

In addition to ArtsAlive.ca, many dance organizations, companies and artists have their own websites where you can read more about their background and work in artistic statements and press kits. 

Media websites often post online reviews of dance performances. You can read dance reviews on the web at the following links:

The Dance Current Reviews

The New York Times Dance Reviews

In addition, online forums invite viewers to submit their own responses to performances for others to read. You can submit your own writing about dance to ArtsAlive.ca and read what others have written as well.

In Books, Specialty Journals, Catalogues & Essays

You can find dance writing by researchers, teachers, historians and archivists in books, specialty journals, catalogues and essays.

Usually, this kind of writing is longer and more in-depth than what you find in newspapers and magazines. It might document an artist's complete body of work, describe and explain a specific dance technique, analyze and discuss a particular dance form or its history, or examine aspects of dance as an art form in contemporary culture.

Many dance researchers and writers are involved in dance preservation and write about dance in order to document it for posterity. Because live dance performances don't hang on walls like paintings, it is very difficult to go back and look at older works. Along with photographs, videos and notation, writing about dance is one of several ways to document and preserve the art form. Choreologists, dance writers and archivists all play a role in this process.

Dance books are often available at the public library or your local bookstore ; however, specialty dance books are sometimes only available in certain libraries and bookstores or by ordering directly from the publisher. You can find most specialty journals in university libraries.

In Artists' Journals, Diaries & Biographies

You can find dance writing by dance artists as well, sometimes in magazines and books about dance, but also in artists' journals, diaries and biographies. Artists may write to articulate their thoughts and ideas during a creative process, to document a project, or to reflect on their work or the art form in general. An artist might work alone or with a writer to create a biography about his or her life.

Choreographers and dancers - like Agnes de Mille, Katherine Dunham, Martha Graham, Carol Anderson and Grant Strate - have all written books about their lives or thoughts on dance. Many of these books are available in libraries, bookstores or through various websites.

Reading and writing about dance are both excellent ways to enhance your understanding of the art form.

  • Reading previews before a performance can provide you with ideas about what to look for when you attend.
  • Afterwards, you can compare your thoughts with others by reading reviews and perhaps writing your own response.
  • If you want to know more about a particular artist, company, dance form, technique or historical period, you can search for websites, books, articles and other printed materials that will provide you with more information.

With ArtsAlive.ca as your starting point, let your curiosity lead you and you will continue to discover just how diverse and exciting this art form is.