Best resources for learning about choreography, choreographers, & dance
December 8, 2014 9:19 AM   Subscribe

Recently I've found myself exceptionally moved by a couple of documentaries about famous choreographers, namely Life in Movement about Tanja Liedtke, and Pina about Pina Bausch. I know very very little about choreography or choreographers (or really dance in general), and would really love to dive into this area, so please recommend me the best books, podcasts, documentaries, magazines, websites, etc. to help me learn more - basically anything informative and/or inspirational.

I guess I should qualify this by saying that I'm probably more interested in ballet and contemporary dance side of things than broadway musicals, but that said I think I am just increasingly interested in bodies in motion, so I'm open to any suggestions - historical, theoretical, biographical, whatever you think is worth a look, I'll check it out.
posted by iivix to Media & Arts (6 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer:
Okay, so this isn't dance in the traditional sense but it does show a lot of the creative process of the choreographer. I enjoyed it!
posted by missriss89 at 10:28 AM on December 8, 2014

Best answer: Synchronous Objects is an amazing thing that is not so easy to describe — it's a website that documents and analyzes a dance performance from a number of different perspectives and there is a lot to be learned from digging through it.

Apollo's Angels is a frighteningly weighty history of ballet. if you have the patience to work through a very dense 642 page book on dance, this would be the one for you.

the documentation of Merce Cunningham's work is really neat, if you can get access to it, and that can be found here.

these are the things I can think of off the top of my head. I I'd like to know more about dance too, so I'll be following along and I'll pipe up again if anything else comes to mind.
posted by spindle at 10:29 AM on December 8, 2014

Best answer: oh, here's a book I've been meaning to read for years: Yes? No! Maybe... it's a history of dance in the UK over the past 50 years by a choreographer who taught at the art school I went to. she's really cool, but I can't speak for the book because I still haven't gotten to it.
posted by spindle at 10:38 AM on December 8, 2014

Best answer: No Fixed Points is a pretty good general history of 20th Century dance-making, which deals primarily with the evolution of classical and neo-classical ballet, contemporary ballet, and modernism and post-modernism, with only a tiny sprinkling of Broadway/theatrical dance. It's coverage is very Euro and US-centric, and tends towards a sort of deification of prominent dance makers (Balanchine in particular) that I found annoying (but not surprising, given that it's written by a former NYCB dancer and director of the Balanchine foundation)...but it is nonetheless a very solid general overview.

Dance history can be a very uneven field, with many of the more popular histories/biographies being done by former dancers (which is not necessarily a bad thing at all, but can be a bit jolting if you're expecting a more scholarly approach rather than personal memoir) but there are some great biographies and studies written by academics (some of whom are also former dancers! Yay!) working in this discipline if you're willing to seek them out (If you're not willing to buy, I have only ever had luck finding books like this in university libraries, or dedicated dance/theatre libraries); a good starting place might be here, though I've not personally read all of those titles, and it's certainly not an exhaustive list of work in the field.

On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, Gelsey Kirkand's autobiography Dancing on My Grave is a personal favourite guilty pleasure of mine, and Martha Graham's autobiography Blood Memory is a pretty fantastic (in all senses of the word) glimpse into the mind of a formidable artist/personality.

For current info, Dance Magazine is (for better or for worse) the "Rolling Stone" magazine of the dance world, with a smattering of interesting reviews/articles surrounded by a whole load of fluff and nonsense. Dance Europe is slightly meatier and more substantial, Dance International is somewhere in between DM and DE, and The Dance Current covers (primarily modern, but also some ballet) dance in Canada.

But the VERY VERY BEST thing you can do if you're interested in dance is to go see it! Lots of it! Especially dance by small companies, independent artists, and emerging choreographers! They need the support, and the more dance you see the more fluent you'll become in understanding your own aesthetic tastes, which will help you narrow down what sort of research/reading/etc you want to do.

Welcome to the wonderful world of the dance obsessed! It's a very, very rich and fulfilling one.
posted by Dorinda at 11:28 AM on December 8, 2014

Response by poster: Top stuff, exactly the sort of thing I had in mind. Thanks especially to Dorinda for such a comprehensive overview.
posted by iivix at 1:21 AM on December 10, 2014

A starting point

Perusing publications that publish reviews are super helpful for getting the pulse of the performance art worlds, and I've found The Guardian to be rather robust at it, as well as accessible. The articles have some videos of selected performance, and you can always find more web video content. Not everyone can afford to come see great performances by great companies on a regular basis, but there are usually DVD releases and I highly recommend getting your hands on them, whether by purchase or by supporting your local libraries by using their services and resources, where you will obviously also find so much more to interest and guide you. You can then open up for yourself so many doors by learning more from/to understand better what you've read/watched/etc...

Go crazy and enjoy!
posted by pos at 8:38 AM on August 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

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