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Books for Black Dance Legacy, Authors A-F

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Dancing the Black Question: The Phoenix Dance Company Phenomenon
By: Christy Adair

A dynamic cultural history of the internationally celebrated Phoenix Dance Company, unique in several ways: its members were in their teens when they formed the company in 1981, they gained recognition very early in their careers through an established television arts program in 1984, they were skillful performers but had not received formal training, they were based in the north of England at a time when most dance centered in London (and New York), and they were black British men who had known each other since childhood, coming from a tight-knit African-Caribbean community. As children, they learned a lot from London Contemporary Dance Theatre and watched videos of Twyla Tharp, Netherlands Dance Company, Dance Theatre of Harlem and the Alvin Ailey Company. This complex narrative, played out through gender, ethnicity and class, places Phoenix as a significant artistic force in contemporary dance. One of the paradoxes it faced was the expectation by funding bodies, critics and audiences that it represent the black community. Such expectations posed a challenge for each successive artistic director. This provocative story investigates institutional racism on the part of arts policy makers, funders and critics.

           
 Dancing In The Wings    

Dancing In The Wings
By: Debbie Allen

Sassy is a long-legged girl who always has something to say. She wants to be a ballerina more than anything, but she worries that her too-large feet, too-long legs, and even her big mouth will keep her from her dream. When a famous director comes to visit her class, Sassy does her best to get his attention with her high jumps and bright leotard. Her first attempts are definitely not appreciated, but with Sassy's persistence, she just might be able to win him over. Dancing in the Wings is loosely based on actress/choreographer Debbie Allen's own experiences as a young dancer.

 
       
         

Katherine Dunham: Dancing A Life

By: Joyce Aschenbrenner

 

Throughout the better part of the twentieth century, and in performance halls, classrooms, and communities throughout the world, the wellspring of Katherine Dunham's remarkable career can be traced to the intersection of dance, culture, and society. More than a recounting of Dunham's accomplishments as a dancer and choreographer, this biography is the first to thoroughly examine her pioneering contributions to dance anthropology and her commitment to humanizing society through the arts. Founder of the first self-supporting African American dance company, Dunham relied on her fieldwork as an anthropologist to fundamentally change modern dance. She shaped new dance techniques and introduced other cultures to U.S. and European audiences by fusing Caribbean and African-based movement with ballet and modern dance. Her revolutionary approaches to dance and its greater connection to the world have influenced a generation of dancers, theatrical performers, and scholars.

           
           

Revelations: The Autobiography of Alvin Ailey

By: A. Peter Bailey

 

Though choreographer Ailey (1931-1989), founder and artistic director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, lived for 30 years in the public eye, the details of his life and character have remained largely mysterious, glimpsed only in such acclaimed signature works as "Revelations'' (1960). The African American dancer, brought up in small-town, segregated Texas, was born to poverty. In his autobiography, he remembers ``branches slashing against [his] child's body that is glued to his mother's body as they walk through the mud in bare feet, going from one place to another.'' Ailey reveals the feelings of inferiority that plagued him throughout his life, from his brief but promising sortie as an actor to his ultimate success in the dance world. He also tells of his single, disappointing conversation with his father, Alvin Ailey Sr.; his mother's rape; his own mental breakdown in 1980, precipitated by the death of his friend and colleague Joyce Trisler; and his descent into drug dependency, leading to his hospitalization.

           
         

Performing Blackness: Enactments of African-American Modernism 

By: Kimberly W. Benston

 

Performing Blackness offers a challenging interpretation of black cultural expression since the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s. Exploring drama, music, poetry, sermons, and criticism, Benston offers an exciting meditation on modern black performance's role in realising African-American aspirations for autonomy and authority. Artists covered include: John Coltrane, Ntozake Shange, Ed Bullins, Amiri Baraka, Adrienne Kennedy, Michael Harper. Performing Blackness is an exciting contribution to the ongoing debate about the vitality and importance of black culture.

           
You Should Meet Misty Copeland     

Misty Copeland (You Should Meet)
By: Laurie Calkhoven

Pirouette across the stage and get to know Misty Copeland—the first African-American woman to become a principal ballerina with the American Ballet Theater—in this fascinating, nonfiction Level 3 Ready-to-Read, part of a new series of biographies about people “you should meet.”

 
       
         

My Story, My Dance: Robert Battle's Journey to Alvin Ailey
By: Lesa Cline-Ransome , James E. Ransome, Robert Battle

 

A boy discovers his passion for dance and becomes a modern hero in this inspiring picture book biography of Robert Battle, artistic director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. When Robert Battle was a boy wearing leg braces, he never dreamed he’d study at Juilliard. Though most dancers begin training at an early age, it wasn’t until Robert was a teenager that his appreciation for movement—first from martial arts, then for ballet—became his passion. But support from his family and teachers paired with his desire and determination made it possible for Robert to excel. After years of hard work, the young man who was so inspired by a performance of Alvin Ailey’s Revelations became the artistic director of the very company that motivated him. Today, under Robert’s leadership, Alvin Ailey continues to represent the African American spirit through dance.

           
Ballerina Body     

Ballerina Body: Dancing and Eating Your Way to a Leaner, Stronger, and More Graceful You
By: Misty Copeland

Celebrating the importance of healthy fats and a fitness regimen based on ballet exercises, Misty shares her own time-tested exercises and an eating plan focusing on healthy fats, both of which keep her in top shape. Tips for motivation and words of encouragement as well as tips on how to keep going even when you may want to give up. An inspiring section on the importance of finding mentors, and eventually being one, plus excerpts from Misty's personal journal, round out this important book on grace and strength.

 
       
 Firebird    

Firebird
By: Misty Copeland

In her debut picture book, Misty Copeland tells the story of a young girl--an every girl--whose confidence is fragile and who is questioning her own ability to reach the heights that Misty has reached. Misty encourages this young girl's faith in herself and shows her exactly how, through hard work and dedication, she too can become Firebird.

  
        
         


Life In Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina

By: Misty Copeland

In this instant  New York Times   bestseller, Misty Copeland makes history, telling the story of her journey to become the first African-American principal ballerina at the prestigious American Ballet Theatre. But when she first placed her hands on the barre at an after-school community center, no one expected the undersized, underprivileged, and anxious thirteen-year-old to become one of America’s most groundbreaking dancers . A true prodigy, she was attempting in months roles that take most dancers years to master. But when Misty became caught between the control and comfort she found in the world of ballet and the harsh realities of her own life, she had to choose to embrace both her identity and her dreams, and find the courage to be one of a kind.

           
 Life In Motion    

Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina Young Readers Edition
By: Misty Copeland

Determination meets dance in this New York Times bestselling memoir by the history-making ballerina Misty Copeland, recounting the story of her journey to become the first African-American principal ballerina at the prestigious American Ballet Theatre. When she first placed her hands on the barre at an after-school community center, no one expected the undersized, underprivileged, and anxious thirteen-year-old to become one of America’s most groundbreaking dancers.

 
       
 Your Life In Motion    

Your Life in Motion: A Guided Journal for Discovering the Fire in You
By: Misty Copeland

Misty Copeland has broken down barriers in the world of dance, becoming the first African American female principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre. And along the way, she’s always used the art of journaling to remember it all. Now, she’s sharing her passion for writing with you! Featuring prompts, quizzes, motivational quotes, and more, Your Life in Motion—inspired by Misty’s own experiences—will help young readers live their best lives every day!

 
       
 Power and Grace    

Misty Copeland: Power and Grace
By: Richard Corman

This book was created to inspire young girls and women. Through the stunning black-and-white photography of Richard Corman and Misty's own brief inspirational quotes, her message of hope, strength, and focus empowers the reader. In the introduction, Cindy Bradley, Misty’s ballet teacher who discovered and encouraged Misty to develop her talent and follow her heart, gives context to the obstacles and challenges that helped Misty find her power and achieve success.

  
        
Katherine Dunham     

Katherine Dunham: Dance and the African Diaspora
By: Joanna Dee Das

Katherine Dunham: Dance and the African Diaspora makes the argument that Dunham was more than a dancer-she was an intellectual and activist committed to using dance to fight for racial justice. Dunham saw dance as a tool of liberation, as a way for people of African descent to reclaim their history and forge a new future. She put her theories into motion not only through performance, but also through education, scholarship, travel, and choices about her own life.

 
       
          Dancing Many Drums: Excavations in African American Dance

By: Thomas DeFrantz

 

Few will dispute the profound influence that African American music and movement has had in American and world culture. Dancing Many Drums explores that influence through a groundbreaking collection of essays on African American dance history, theory, and practice. In so doing, it re-evaluates black  and African American as both racial and dance categories. Abundantly illustrated, the volume includes images of a wide variety of dance forms and performers, from ring shouts, vaudeville, and social dances to professional dance companies and Hollywood movie dancing.

           
          Dancing Revelations: Alvin Ailey’s Embodiment of African American Culture

By: Thomas DeFrantz

 

In the early 1960s, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater was a small, multi-racial company of dancers that performed the works of its founding choreographer and other emerging artists. By the late 1960s, the company had become a well-known African American artistic group closely tied to the Civil Rights struggle. In  Dancing Revelations, Thomas DeFrantz chronicles the troupe's journey from a small modern dance company to one of the premier institutions of African American culture. He not only charts this rise to national and international renown, but also contextualizes this progress within the civil rights, women's rights, and gay rights struggles of the late 20th century.

           
         

The Spirit Moves – African-American Dance History – Savoy Style (video)

By: Mura Dehn

 

Jazz dance from the turn of the century to 1950: "Filmed at the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem in the 1950s, Part 1 features demonstrations of ragtime and jazz dances by well-known artists at the Savoy, including James Berry, Pepsi Bethel, Teddy Brown, Sandra Gibson, Leon James, Al Minns and Frankie Manning. Dances in Part 1 include the Cakewalk, Charleston, Black Bottom, Suzie Q, Shake Blues, Gutbucket Blues, Trunky Doo.

           
Taking Flight     

Taking Flight: From War Orphan to Star Ballerina
By: Michaela DePrince with Elaine DePrince

Michaela DePrince was known as girl Number 27 at the orphanage, where she was abandoned at a young age and tormented as a “devil child” for a skin condition that makes her skin appear spotted. But it was at the orphanage that Michaela would find a picture of a beautiful ballerina en pointe that would help change the course of her life.

 
 Taking Flight    

Taking Flight: From War Orphan to Star Ballerina
By: Michaela DePrince with Elaine DePrince

Michaela DePrince was known as girl Number 27 at the orphanage, where she was abandoned at a young age and tormented as a “devil child” for a skin condition that makes her skin appear spotted. But it was at the orphanage that Michaela would find a picture of a beautiful ballerina en pointe that would help change the course of her life.

 
        
         

Marion D. Cuyjet and her Judimar School of Dance. Training Ballerinas in Black Philadelphia 1948-1971

By: Melanye White Dixon

 

A comprehensive study of pioneering ballet pedagogue Marion D. Cuyjet who established one of the first dance institutions in the US that provided classical ballet training for African American dancers.

           
           

Alvin Ailey: A Life in Dance

By:  Jennifer Dunning

 

Alvin Ailey (1931–1989) was a choreographic giant in the modern dance world and a champion of African-American talent and culture. His interracial Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater provided opportunities to black dancers and choreographers when no one else would. His acclaimed “Revelations” remains one of the most performed modern dance pieces in the twentieth century. But he led a tortured life, filled with insecurity and self-loathing. Raised in poverty in rural Texas by his single mother, he managed to find success early in his career, but by the 1970s his creativity had waned. He turned to drugs, alcohol, and gay bars and suffered a nervous breakdown in 1980. He was secretive about his private life, including his homosexuality, and, unbeknownst to most at the time, died from AIDS-related complications at age 58.Now, for the first time, the complete story of Ailey's life and work is revealed in this biography. Based on his personal journals and hundreds of interviews with those who knew him, including Mikhail Baryshnikov, Judith Jamison, Lena Horne, Katherine Dunham, Sidney Poitier, and Dustin Hoffman, Alvin Ailey is a moving story of a man who wove his life and culture into his dance.

           
         

Island Possessed

By: Katherine Dunham

 

Just as surely as Haiti is "possessed" by the gods and spirits of vaudun (voodoo), the island "possessed" Katherine Dunham when she first went there in 1936 to study dance and ritual. In this book, Dunham reveals how her anthropological research, her work in dance, and her fascination for the people and cults of Haiti worked their spell, catapulting her into experiences that she was often lucky to survive. Here Dunham tells how the island came to be possessed by the demons of voodoo and other cults imported from various parts of Africa, as well as by the deep class divisions, particularly between blacks and mulattos, and the political hatred still very much in evidence today. Full of the flare and suspense of immersion in a strange and enchanting culture, Island Possessed is also a pioneering work in the anthropology of dance and a fascinating document on Haitian politics and voodoo.

           
         

Journey to Accompong

By: Katherine Dunham

 

High in the mountains in the northeastern part of Jamaica, lies the Maroon village of Accompong. There, by train, automobile and mule-back, Katherine Dunham, young American Negro dancer, choreographer and anthropologist, went to study the Koromantee dances.

           
         

A Touch of Innocence: Memoirs of Childhood

By: Katherine Dunham

 

An internationally known dancer, choreographer, and gifted anthropologist, Katherine Dunham was born to a black American tailor and a well-to-do French Canadian woman twenty years his senior. This book is Dunham’s story of the chaos and conflict that entered her childhood after her mother’s early death.  In stark prose, she tells of growing up in both black and white households and of the divisions of race and class in Chicago that become the harsh realities of her young life. A riveting narrative of one girl’s struggle to transcend the painful confusions of a family and culture in turmoil, Dunham’s story is full of the clarity, candor, and intelligence that lifted her above her troubled beginnings.

           
         

Kaiso!: Writings By and About Katherine Dunham
By: Katherine Dunham, Veve A. Clark

“Kaiso,” a term of praise that is the calypso equivalent of “bravo,” is a fitting title for this definitive and celebratory collection of writings by and about Katherine Dunham, the legendary African American dancer, choreographer, anthropologist, and social activist. Originally produced in the 1970s, this is a newly revised and much expanded edition that includes recent scholarly articles, Dunham’s essays on dance and anthropology, press reviews, interviews, and chapters from Dunham’s unpublished volume of memoirs, “Minefields.” With nearly a hundred selections by dozens of authors,  Kaiso! provides invaluable insight into the life and work of this pioneering anthropologist and performer and is certain to become an essential resource for scholars and general readers interested in social anthropology, dance history, African American studies, or Katherine Dunham herself.

           
           

African-American Performance and Theater History: A Critical Reader

By: Harry Justin Elam, David Krasner

 

African-American Performance and Theatre History is an anthology of critical writings that explores the intersections of race, theater, and performance in America. Assembled by two esteemed scholars in black theater and composed of essays from acknowledged authorities in the field, this volume is organized into four sections representative of the ways black theater, drama, and performance past and present interact and enact continuous social, cultural, and political dialogues. The premise behind the book is that analyzing African-American theater and performance traditions offers insight into how race has operated and continues to operate in American society. The only one-volume collection of its kind, this volume is likely to become the central reference for those studying black theater.