Throughout history dance has served as one of the most popular forms of human expression. Tap, jazz, ballet, interpretive and modern are only a few genres of dance. History is full of legendary dancers and choreographers whose names are still very well known years after their deaths. The advent of photography and video mean that the work of legendary dancers and choreographers survives them. The following is a list of individuals important to dance, some past and some present.
Balanchine and the Lost Muse: Revolution and the Making of a Great Choreographer by Elizabeth Kendall.
Within these pages is the dual biography of two dance greats: the legendary choreographer George Balanchine and his childhood friend and principal ballerina Liidia (Lidochka) Ivanova. She would be his muse, the first ballerina for whom he ever composed. Kendall examines their years together from 1917 to her mysterious death immediately prior to Balanchine's escape from Russia in 1924.
Barefoot Dancer: The Story of Isadora Duncan by Barbara O'Connor.
Born Angela Isadora Duncan in 1877, she grew up to become a pioneer of modern dance. Throwing off the restraints of rigid ballet technique, Duncan preferred to move as her emotions dictated. Heavily inspired by the culture and style of ancient Greece, she performed barefoot and always wore a Grecian toga, allowing for freedom of movement. Duncan died in a 1927 car crash at the age of fifty.
Dancing Through It: My Journey in the Ballet by Jenifer Ringer.
Jenifer Ringer performed as a principal dancer in the New York City ballet. In her memoir, she describes what it is like behind the scenes in a prestigious ballet company. Ringer guides the reader through a typical day for a professional dancer, describing the pressures of weight and body image and sharing positive emotions such as the excitement of waiting in the wings during a performance.
Fosse by Sam Wasson.
No one has been more influential to recent American culture than Bob Fosse. He is the only performer to win an Oscar, an Emmy and a Tony Award in the same year. His career produced successful Broadway shows such as "The Pajama Game," "Chicago," "Cabaret," "Pippin" and "All That Jazz." Yet, his private life was one of turmoil. Wasson illuminates aspects of both his personal and professional life, including his relationships with legendary Broadway performers such as Liza Minnelli, Dustin Hoffman, Anne Rankin and Jessica Lange.
Gonna Do Great Things: the Life of Sammy Davis Jr. by Gary Fishgall.
Sammy Davis Jr. is what is known in the theater business as a triple threat. He could dance, he could act, and he could sing. A comedian and a charmer, Sammy could captivate any crowd. Throughout his life he battled racism, self doubt and addiction. But he was a superstar, laying the groundwork for generations of black performers after him. Fishgall brings to life the fascinating and controversial life of Sammy Davis Jr. through meticulous research and interviews with people who knew Davis best.
I Was a Dancer: A Memoir by Jacques d'Amboise.
For thirty years, Jacques d'Amboise served as a principal dancer in the New York City ballet. He was a protoge of George Balanchine, and as such had more works choreographed for him by Balanchine than any other dancer. d'Amboise chronicles his classical studies which began when he was eight years old, his career in dance and his relationship with Balanchine, whom he describes as "the supreme ballet master." Readers may be most familiar with d'Amboise from his appearance in "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" which will be showing at the Library Center this summer as a part of the Saturday Afternoon at the movies.
Man in the Music: the Creative Life and Work of Michael Jackson by Joseph Vogel; with a foreward by Contributing Editor Anthony DeCurtis.
Though known as the "King of Pop," Michael Jackson's influence on dance cannot be denied. His many talents as a singer, songwriter, dancer and philanthropist made him influential in American culture for over forty years. Known for his unique dance style, Jackson was most famous for his moonwalk, which he debuted during a live tv special in 1983.
Margot Fonteyn by Meredith Daneman.
Legendary ballerina Margot Fonteyn began life as Peggy Hookam in suburban England. Who knew that the little girl would grow up to become Britain's most beloved ballerina and a Dame of the empire? Daneman is a novelist and dancer who has spent the last ten years researching the life of Margot Fonteyn, following her from her early days in England to her career as a beloved dancer and to her final days succumbing to cancer in 1991.
Patrick Swayze: One Last Dance by Wendy Leigh
Known for his steamy sex appeal and tough guy movies, Patrick Swayze's first foray into the entertainment business was dance. Trained by his choreographer mother, Swayze's break in the business came in the form of a low-budget film called "Dirty Dancing," which has become a cult classic. Leigh follows Swayze from his childhood, his career in Hollywood, his struggles with substance abuse, and his courageous determination to survive pancreatic cancer. And no one will ever forget his legendary skit on Saturday Night Live in which he and Chris Farley audition for the Chippendales, which was voted one of the five funniest moments in SNL history.
From Nebraska farm boy to one of the most sophisticated men to grace the Vaudeville stage and Hollywood screen, Fred Astaire dominated the dance floor in the 1930s. Originally part of a successful Vaudeville brother and sister duo, he lived in the shadow of his sister Adele; that is until he learned how to tap dance. Biographer Peter Levinson interviewed hundreds of stars of stage and screen to write this biography chronicalling the private and professional life of one of Hollywood's most legendary dancers.
Find this article at