5 Modern Dance Books

5 beautiful books to introduce dancers to modern dance, dance history and famous dance artists. Enjoy!


  1. Human_AlphabetCoverThe Human Alphabet ~Pilobolus

     “An alphabet made of… PEOPLE!”

    ~ A fun book for dancers young and old. Pilobolus dancers use their bodies and colorful costumes to make all the letters of the alphabet and a picture for each letter (circus, ladder, tears, etc.). Young readers can have fun guessing what the bodies represent (the answers are in the back of the book), and older dancers will be inspired to shape their bodies and their partnering in adventurous ways. This book could be used so many ways in a dance classroom, including with beginning modern/contemporary students to illustrate counterbalance.

  2. Dance ~by Bill T. Jones

    “I can fly high and soar through the air. But I’ve got to come down and dance on the ground.”

    ~ Renowned professional dancer Bill T. Jones shows children that bodies, yes even male bodies, can be expressive and joyful. The dance concepts included in the book a simple enough for young grade school dancers to grasp, mostly, and complex enough to intrigue middle, high school and even adult movers. The sparse text makes Dance with Bill T. Jones a nice choice for a dance classroom, where you may want to move quickly from reading into the dancers trying out the poses and concepts for themselves.

  3. Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring ~by Jan Greenberg &Sandra Jordan

    “The dancer and choreographer. The composer. The artist. Together they created a ballet about a new home, a new family, a new life.”

    ~ A non-fiction telling of the creation of an iconic American modern ballet, complete with quotations, notes and sources set to beautiful illustrations. The strong theme that art is often a collaboration and a dialogue between multiple people is a welcome theme for budding dancers and artists of any discipline. This book is suitable for a dance classroom of mid-to-upper elementary school age children, and possibly also to introduce Graham or the work Appalachian Spring  to middle or high school dancers.

  4. Alvin Ailey ~by Andrea Pinkney

    “Alvin moved like a cat, smooth like quicksilver. When he danced, happiness glowed warm inside him.”

    ~ A story of Alvin Ailey’s life and his inspirations for two of his most famous works, Blues Suite and Revelations. The book accurately describes itself as a “biological narrative history” with 6-8 page “chapters” broken up by date and place. Each page of text faces a gorgeous scratchboard drawing that deftly captures the spirit of the dancers’ movements. Again, this text is suitable for a dance classroom of mid-to-upper elementary school age children, and possibly also to introduce Alvin Ailey and his work  to middle or high school dancers.

  5. Jose! Born to Dance: The Story of Jose Limon ~by Susanna Reich

    “Ole! Ole! Ole!”

    ~ A good story to show that successful people don’t always settle on their life’s passion at a young age, and it’s good to explore lots of types of art. This is mainly the story of Jose Limon’s hard life leading up to his discovery of his passion for dance around age 20. Jose! Born to Dance is labeled for grades K-3.

Happy Reading!  ~Linda

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