Books on Ballroom Dancing
About this listThis list contains books on or about ballroom dancing, including Latin American dacnes, Swing, and the so-called nightclub dances such as the Hustle.
This list includes books on dancing that, for the most part, appeared after 1970. While this cutoff date may seem somewhat arbitrary, it means that most of these books are either still in print, or can be found in major libraries. Social dancing changes with time; older books on dancing are of interest mainly to the historian and not to the practitioner of dancing. Moreover, the dancing boom of the 50's and 60's led to the production of a great many forgettable low-budget paperbacks, whose authors were neither competent dancers nor teachers. If you are interested in a comprehensive list of older books, I recommend searching the library of congress catalogues.
A few older books do appear in this list. They either have exceptional historical value, such as the book written by the Castles and another by Arthur Murray, or are unique in some way and assumed to have some redeeming value.
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The book presents helpful learning hints for beginners, in the Waltz, Quickstep, Tango, Cha Cha, Samba and Rumba. They refer to this book as a "pack" since it includes "Step Cards, Foot Templates and a Compact Disc" with good strict tempo dance music available for both learning and dancing International Style.
An excellent book for all types of dancers; many tips and instructions. Figures broken down step by step in tabular form and with footprint charts. This book also includes the Viennese Waltz. (Int'l Style)
All figures broken down step by step in tabular form. This is the official book for ISTD examinations. (Intl. Style)
Basic steps of the Foxtrot, Waltz, Swing, Rumba, Cha Cha, Mambo, Tango and Samba. The book contains 214 pages, 52 illustrations, and goes for $25 (mail order from the address above). More information can be obtained from the following web page . Allan Darnel offers a free 1-hour dance lesson with the purchase of every copy of the book.
NYPL: *MGW 85-1125
This book is an outgrowth of the author's personal notes while he was working for the Arthur Murray studios. The book contains anecdotal advice about dance lessons and interacting with students. While the material is targetted mostly at the studio owner and teacher, it contains sound advice that is useful to dance teachers in general. What is does *not* provide is a comprehensive program, or even a systematic approach to developing a dance program. Nor does it address in any detail the difficult and important issues of teaching technique vs. patterns, pacing of the lessons, or managing group classes (most of the text implicitly assumes a private teaching environment). Nevertheless, it is useful reading for dance teachers.
The book is not carried by any of the dance suppliers I know. You can order the book directly from the author. His contact information is given above.
NYPL: *MGW 95-994
Figures in Waltz, Foxtrot, Quickstep and Tango.
Richard Montgomery Stephenson / Joseph Iaccarino:
NYPL: *MGW 92-1350
Ann T. Kilbride / A. Algoso:
Abe Peck / Suzy Rice:
NYPL: *MGW 76-3826
Comprehensive historical text on the subject of social (ballroom) dancing, with especial emphasis on exhibition dancing. Starts with the developments in the late 19th century on to the "contemporary renaissance" of dancing in the late 1980's and early 1990's. Documented with a great many references, as well as extensive footnotes and a sizeable bibliography make this a great text on the history of ballroom dancing.
Seven Chapters: The origins and rise of exhibition ballroom dance; Dancing deities - carreer path of the early innovators; Cabaret dancing; Taking the palace by Storm - exhibition ballroom dance in the Vaudeville of the teens and twenties; Exhibition ballroom dance in early musical theatre; Dancing and rebirth; The contemporary renaissance.
NYPL: *MGW 92-933
NYPL: *MGW 88-4282
Illustrated in detail, with many photos, this book explains Line Hustle, Street Hustle and Latin Hustle, as well as a history of Hustle. However, it obviously does not include the major changes that Hustle underwent in the 80's, and what you find in this book is different from the Hustle as it is danced today.
NYPL: *MGW 95-959 Performing Arts
NYPL: *MGW 78-4578
Very amusing history of ballroom dancing. With reproduction of various pieces about dancing that appeared in the popular media of the 19th century. 19th century perspective on dancing and morality, as well as the then-acceptable etiquette of dancing.
Despite the funny title, the British author of this book did a great job in describing and representing fundamental principles of social dancing, many of which are valid even today. Contains six chapters: Dancing - yesterday and today; Dancing as a hobby; Learning to dance; Party games and dances; Your personal appearance; Dancing as a career.
Chapter three, "Learning to Dance", describes step patterns in Waltz, Quickstep, Foxtrot, Tango, Rumba, Samba, Cha-Cha, and Rock-and-Roll. Includes many pictures and illustrations. The step patterns are mostly identical to what is taught today, with the exception of Cha-Cha. Another big difference from current practice is seen in the pictures of the closed dance position for Foxtrot, Quickstep, and Waltz (pages 42-43), where man's right hand is shown on Lady's lower back, instead of her left shoulder blade.
First appeared in 1954 under the same title, but with only 191 pages. Revised to this version in 1959.
Thomas E. Parson:
Thomas Parson is the author of a number of books on dancing, starting with ``Popular Ballroom Dances'' which was published in 1937 by Barnes and Noble. ``How to Dance'' was published originally by Barnes and Noble in 1955, with revisions in 1956, 1965, and 1969. It was re-released by Perennial Library in 1984; the second edition came out in 1986.
NYPL: *MGW 88-471
NYPL *MGW 93-1400
From the introduction of the book:
See notes for "Leading Competition Figures: Tango and Quickstep".
Christopher Willis/Jennifer Fung:
See notes for "Leading Competition Figures: Tango and Quickstep".
Gwenda Forrester Academy:
NYPL *MGW 92-720
Robert Austin and Claire Hillard:
NYPL: *MGW 92-1023
Elizabeth Romain / Flick Colby:
Mari Helen Schultz:
NYPL: *MGW 88-4456
Good book for beginners, detailed description and footprints. Covers Smooth and Latin. Interesting section of dance history.
A previous edition of this book was published by Barrie & Jenkins in London, c1974, ISBN 0214200434.
NYPL: *MGW 83-3983
Irene and Vernon Castle:
``By Mr. and Mrs. Vernon Castle; with many illustrations from photographs and moving pictures of the newest dances for which the authors posed; introduction by Elisabeth Marbury. ''
Vernon Castle (1887-1918) and his wife Irene were dominating figures in the American dance scene of early 20th century, and were instrumental in popularizing social dancing. At least one copy of this book still exists in the Yale University Library.
Allen Dow/ Mike Michaelson:
Includes Waltz, Swing, Polka, Fox trot, Rumba, Cha-cha, Merengue, Tango, Mambo, Samba. This book explains 4 to 6 introductory patterns for each of the american style dances mentioned. Each of the patterns is illustrated with many pictures. However, the dancers in the pictures have very bad form. Wildly incorrect explanation (and illustration) of the dance positions. Definitely not recommended.
What with the 70's hairdo and clothes, the book can be worth a few laughs (it is not good for much else). For example, the lady in most of the pictures is wearing open-toed sandals, making you wonder how she keeps it on going backwards. The male demonstrator in the Latin dances is wearing a 3-piece suit!
NYPL: *MGW 82-5063
NYPL: *MGS (Latin American) 84-684
NYPL: *MGW 95-1089
Harold T. Zuluwinski:
A previous edition of this book appeared all the way back in 1934 (in loose-leaf form) under the name ``Illustrated dance routines, waltz, fox trot, one step, tango, for teachers and students''. The pictures of that version were also posed by Harold Zulawinski and Norma Adams.
NYPL *MGW 86-634
All about the physiological aspects of dancing, human mechanics and biophysics. Excellent book.
NYPL: *MGW 84-4078
Edited by Elizabeth Romain on behalf of the Latin-American Dance Branch Committee, Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing. Advanced variations and amalgamations for competition dancing. (Intl. Style) ``Includes the Popular Variations originally published in July 1972, and the additional popular variations shown at the 1975 Refresher Course and Congress.''
NYPL: *MGW 73-677
A self-study book for beginner dancers. It includes Foxtrot, Rumba, Merengue, Swing, and Cha-Cha, with a special sections for brides and grooms. For more information, see the author's web page .
Note: You should be able to find newer versions; this was the latest version in NY Public Library.
NYPL: *MGW 75-1615
All figures broken down step by step in tabular form. Official book for ISTD examinations. (Int'l Style)
NYPL: *MGW 84-1874
A popular-level book for the club Latino scene. Note that the book is written by a British author for a British audience. Figures may be different from the ones popular in the US.
Myrna Martin Schild:
NYPL: MGW 86-1913
Judy Patterson Wright:
Judy Patterson Wright:
The two main parts of the book have vastly different quality. The first few chapters of the book address issues in developing a dance program from the point of view of the imparting skills, timing of the program, evaluation, and other aspects of running a successful group class. The material is presented in a systematic manner. This part is an outgrowth of the author's work for her thesis.
The second part of the book presents dance patterns (steps) in several dances. This part does not have the same high quality displayed in the first few chapters. This part of the book subscribes to the idea of teaching as many patterns to the students as possible. Little attention is paid to lead and follow, position and form. This program teaches patterns with no attempt at providing the student with an understanding of what makes them work . Such an approach is often responsible for producing dancers who ``know'' many patterns and yet are unable to dance them on the floor, or are unable to dance with partners from outside of their class.
The neglect of sound basics manifests iteself again in the introduction, where the author tries to make a distinction between "social dance" (defined as dancing done in social functions) and "ballroom dance", claiming that the book is about the former and not the latter. But ballroom dances are also social events! The fundamentals of form, movement, and lead-follow are identical in recreational partner dancing everywhere; the only difference is good dancing vs. bad dancing. Naturally, individuals who have been taught well and go dancing regularly dance better than typical crowds seen at weddings or proms. However, the existence of much bad dancing in typical social functions is hardly justification for a cavalier and uncareful approach to teaching of dance at the beginner level.
Overall evaluation: the book is worth reading for its first few chapters. Even established teachers can benefit from the systematic approach presented for laying out a dance course. It is unfortunate that the book doesn't apply this systematic approach to the develpment of a program with strong fundamentals. The later chapters are merely an aggregate of patterns that have little to offer to any moderately competent dancer or dance teacher.
Aurora S. Villacorta:
(Following review from Mark Balzer) Swing Dancer is a 270 page Swing dancer's manual by Craig R. Hutchinson. It provides definitions, an abbreviation dance code for annotating Swing dance figures, moves, turns, dance positions, and rhythm breaks. The manual covers training, music, technique, choreography, and history with 49 tables, 100 figures, and over 50 exercises for learning to turn.
Norma Miller / Evette Jensen:
Norma Miller is one of the last surviving original Lindy Hoppers. She appeared in the movies "Day at the Races" and "Hellzapoppin'".
Mayphine Van Zant:
"Guide to ballroom touch dancing with over 200 illustrations and dance-step diagrams, paperback with 268 pages"
Virgil L. Morton:
Although written a great many years ago, this book has many pointers to sound teaching technique. The beginning chapters that deal with general points of teaching dance are especially useful, while the later chapters on specific dances have outdated material. Drawings that illustrate dance positions are different from today's practice (it is doubtful that they were accurate even in the late 60's). Another error is the rhythm for Cha-Cha, which is given as 1-2-3&4 (as opposed to 2-3-4&1, which is the current accepted count).
Eleven Chapters: American popular dancing; The teaching plan; Auxiliary dances; Cha-Cha; Argentine Tango; American Waltz; Heel-and-toe Polka; Swing; Samba; Fox trot.
All figures broken down step by step in tabular form. Charts are more readable than ISTD books. IDTA syllabus. (Intl. Style)
NYPL: *MGW 85-1460
All figures broken down step by step in tabular form. Charts are more readable than ISTD books. IDTA syllabus. (Int'l Style)
NYPL: *MGW 91-628
National Dance Council of America (NDCA):
This is an attempt at codifying American style syllabus. To my knowledge, this is the only available printed material with a systematic exposition of American Style patterns and syllabi. Has chart format; no written text except in the introduction. Each pattern is described in separate charts for Man and Lady, where the horizontal axis marks the progression of time, and each row of information contains one element of dance, such as foot positions, amount of turn, rise and fall, footwork, and timing. Usage of 143 abbreviations plus 6 additional symbols makes it somewhat painful to use the charts. Overall, this book is not as easy to use as the comparable syllabus books of international style (ISTD and IDTA).
Includes: Foxtrot, Waltz, Tango, Swing, Vienese Waltz, Polka, Peabody, Rumba, Cha-Cha, Samba, Merengue, Mambo, and Paso Doble.
National Dance Council of America (NDCA):
Same comments as for the previous book.
On average, their prices are higher than most other vendors. In one
case, I was able to find a book elsewhere at a price 25 percent lower
than here. They charge shipping and handling at the rate of $3.50 per
item. This charge doesn't appear on your invoice until after you have
entered the credit card information, which I find objectionable.
However, the books are delivered within a few days.
Overall, they have good selection and good service, but you pay for the
Hearn & Spencer LTD
On average, their prices are higher than most other vendors. In one case, I was able to find a book elsewhere at a price 25 percent lower than here. They charge shipping and handling at the rate of $3.50 per item. This charge doesn't appear on your invoice until after you have entered the credit card information, which I find objectionable. However, the books are delivered within a few days.
Overall, they have good selection and good service, but you pay for the added convenience.
Hearn & Spencer LTD