Books for Men in Dance
While ballerinas and other female dancers take centre stage, male dancers are often neglected. This article offers a list of recommended books for the male dancer's library, to help redress that balance!
Ballet Apparel for Men: A Complete Beginner's Guide
Let's start the list with a practical book: a primer for men or boys starting out in ballet. In my view, it's a book no male dance student should be without! The author, David Hunter, started ballet as an adult and knows first-hand how little information is available to ballet beginners.
This ebook covers things that seem obvious to established dancers, but are mysteries to the uninitiated:
- When and why you need to wear tights
- How to clean and maintain each piece of apparel
- How to sew and prepare your ballet shoes
- What a dance belt is
- What the typical dress code is for ballet class
Ballet Apparel for Men is available for free download from the author's website, BalletforMen.com.
Men in Motion
A visual banquet, Men in Motion showcases some breathtaking dance photography.
It's easy to create beautiful shots of dancers posing - but much harder to capture them frozen at the moment when they're at maximum extension or in full flight. In this book, Francois Rousseau manages to do just that, again and again.
I think it's a pity to see an image of a nude on the cover. It's misleading, and an obvious attempt by the publisher to grab a larger audience. This book isn't about perving - most of the dancers are fully clothed. It's a celebration of the power and grace of the male dancer and an asset to any dancer's bookshelf.
This gorgeous book doesn't just cover ballet - there are Broadway, hip hop, acrobatic, and folk dancers too.
Ballet Technique for the Male Dancer
This is the classic text by Tarasov, the legendary Bolshoi director who trained stars like Mikhail Lavrovsky and Marius Liepa. It's possibly the best book ever written on classical ballet technique for men.
Tarasov was a professor at GITIS in Moscow from 1946 to 1975 and taught at the Bolshoi Academy from 1923-61. He taught the Vaganova method, with his own allegro designed especially for male dancers.
This book is now out of print, but if you can find a second-hand copy, grab it!
Tarasov worked with Vaganova on this project
Danseur: The Male in Ballet
This is a well-researched guide to the history of men in ballet. This book is worth buying for the 250 beautiful photographs alone.
Obviously, as it was written in the late 1970s, it doesn't include any of the dancers we know and love today - but in some ways, it's all the more interesting for that. It's a comprehensive history of men in dance, covering two whole centuries. The emphasis is on the early 1900s when the male danseur emerged as an equal to the ballerina rather than her shadow, thanks to Diaghilev's Ballet Russe and later the Soviet ballet companies.
Again, this book is out of print but second-hand copies do come up on Amazon from time to time.
When Men Dance
The blurb for When Men Dance describes the content as "the men who dance and those who analyze them tell stories that will be both familiar and surprising for insiders and outsiders alike."
I like the fact that it's not just about the Western world and not just about the obvious genres like ballet or contemporary. It covers tap, hip hop, folk, Baroque and belly dance as well, and has some interesting reflections on the nature of masculinity in dance.
The authors (or rather editors, because the essays are written by a variety of dance scholars and dancers) are:
- Jennifer Fisher, Associate Professor of Dance, University of California - Irvine.
- Anthony Shay, Assistant Professor of Dance and Cultural Studies at Pomona College
Overall, a broad-ranging book of interest to academics and dancers alike.
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