Related works about specific topics are listed at the end of each section. Books are listed here in order of pertinent interest rather than by author or editors.
Reference works: Dance
The International Encyclopedia of Dance, Selma Jeanne Cohen, founding editor; Elizabeth Aldrich, managing editor. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.) The one and only! Six volumes. Of particular interest are entries for music, individual composers, choreographers, ballet, individual dance forms, and historical topics. Articles can be accessed online by subscription. V. 4 pp. 483-520 “Music for Dance” includes Western Music: before 1520; 1520-1650; 1650-1800; 1800-1900; and since 1900.
The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Ballet, 2nd edition. Horst Koegler, editor.
(New York: Oxford University Press, 1982.) Handy one-volume source for basic information about dance artists and composers for ballet, with brief lists of works.
The Ballet Goer’s Guide, Mary Clarke and Clement Crisp. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1981.) These two English writers put together this attractive volume that gives the stories of the best-known choreographic works performed in our own times, alphabetically. Nice photographs suggest aura of each work, and basic information about the creation of each one is included. The introduction provides a brief background to the art of ballet. Other chapters offer photographs of basic ballet positions and movements, plus biographies of major choreographers and notes on leading dancers of the 20th century.
Balanchine’s Complete Stories of the Great Ballets, George Balanchine and Francis Mason. Revised and enlarged edition suggested (available second-hand). (Garden City: Doubleday & Company, 1977.) Tells the plots and background of great ballets that lasted over time, as well as new works created in the 25 years before this 838-page edition. Balanchine of course was the inspired and inspiring choreographer for New York City Ballet. Francis Mason (actually the principal author of this reference book) was a major writer and promoter of dance in America, as editor of the magazine Ballet Review, and as regular dance critic for New York City’s classical radio station WQXR. This hardcover edition includes an essay by Balanchine on “How I Became a Dancer and Choreographer,” a chronology of significant events in the history of ballet, suggestions about “Ballet for Your Children,” a glossary, and some other information. Subsequent to this edition, a briefer paperback guide was issued by Doubleday (without the extra essays etc.) as 101 Stories of the Great Ballets—still readily available.
Complete Book of Ballets: A Guide to the Principal Ballets of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Cyril W. Beaumont. (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1938.) Not a basic reference nowadays, but interesting because arranged chronologically by choreographers, starting in 1742. Plots explained in considerable detail. Because the volume includes many choreographic works not known today, it may also be of interest to those researching composer collaborations of times past. Cyril Beaumont was one of the most respected writers on dance, author of many books on the subject.
Balanchine Technique, Suki Schorer and Russell Lee. (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1999). A guide to basic ballet technique, with photographs, and descriptions, by Schorer, a former principal dancer and teacher with New York City Ballet.
The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2nd edition. Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell, editors. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.) Twenty-nine volumes. The ultimate scholarly source for information on composers, instruments, musical practices within individual countries, forms, technical terms, time periods and styles.
Includes an excellent history of ballet (Vol. 2 pp. 565-595) with sections by Rebecca Harris-Warrick, Noël Goodwin, and John Percival. By subscription, entries available online; some articles are updated on an ongoing basis.
Also includes entry on “Dance” V. 6, pp. 879-908 with articles by dance historians Ingrid Brainard, Julia Sutton, E. Kerr Borthwick, Andrew Lamb, and Rebecca Harris-Warrick. Detailed information on European dance treatises, instruction manuals, dance notation, popular folk and court dances through the centuries, historical clues about Western antiquity, the gradual increased technical skills of professionals in “spectacles” and theatrical settings, and the influence of dance tradition of symmetry upon art forms of music intended only for listening.
online by subscription only.
The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music, 3rd edition, Michael Kennedy, editor. (London and New York: Oxford University Press, 1980.) Companion paperback handy for quick looking up of composers’ dates, brief careers, and major works.
The New Harvard Dictionary of Music, Don Michael Randel, editor. (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University, 1986.) Standard reference on musical terms but also contains some listings for dance forms, as well as an article on ballet and theatrical dance. Good for quick looking up of explanations of compositional procedures, historical style periods, musical instruments, Italian terms commonly used in written scores.
The Grove Book of Operas, 2nd edition, Stanley Sadie, Laura Macy, editors. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.) Early in the history of opera, ballet was extremely important. Later on, in the 19th century, “grand operas” continued to include ballet and folk-like incidental dances to evoke a setting or situation. This guide, with operas listed alphabetically, provides plots and information about the creation and first performances.
Ballet Music: A Handbook. Matthew Naughtin. (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014.) A recent book aimed at music librarians in ballet companies, but nevertheless very interesting because of its introductory essays plus unique published listing of ballet musical repertoire, including current sources for scores and parts, and information on the order of musical numbers for all the ballets described, plus information about major ballet premieres, original choreographers, later versions, and more.
Schirmer Pocket Manual of Musical Terms, Theodore Baker, Nicolas Slonimsky, editors. 4th edition. (New York: Schirmer Books, 1978.) Just what it says; handy to have it you want to look up common definitions and pronunciations, or the meaning of less known terms such as wolf tone. Includes an alphabetical listing of noteworthy musicians.
The Victor Book of Ballets and Ballet Music, Robert Lawrence. (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1950.) An older work still worthwhile consulting because it offers plots plus notated musical excerpts of main themes, with black & white photographs. At the time of publication, the author was conductor of the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra and professor of Music at Tempe State College. He had guest conducted for a number of ballet companies, and was associate music editor of the New York Herald Tribune.
The Golden Encyclopedia of Music, Norman Lloyd. (New York: Golden Press, 1968.) Eminently readable one-volume reference worth finding. The author was one of the composers in on the ground floor of modern dance at the famous Bennington summers, then went on to develop unique courses in Literature and Materials of Music at the Juilliard School (required for the dance students), and later created the arts program at the Rockefeller Foundation. Book includes basic topics of music, but also historical coverage of composers, dance styles, and instruments.
Illustrated Book of Great Composers, Wendy Thompson. (London: Southwater, 2004.) An inviting paperback introduction to over 100 mainly European composers, with one-two page biographies, nice illustrations, arranged chronologically with helpful essays on style periods. (Focus is on concert works.)
The Encyclopedia of Music, Max Wade-Matthews and Wendy Thompson. (New York: Barnes & Noble, 2004 edition.) An expanded version of the above, with the same chronological coverage of best-known composers, but with the addition of chapters about musical instruments and composition through the ages.
The Oxford Companion to the American Musical: Theatre, Film, and Television, Thomas Hischak (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.) A most convenient and valuable reference.
Ballet and Modern Dance, Susan Au. (London: Thames and Hudson, 2nd edition, 2002.) The first half presents a general overview for those new to the history of theatrical dance in Europe. Nicely illustrated compact 224-page paperback. Excellent overview.
Ballet in Western Culture. Carol Lee (New York: Routledge, 2002.) An enjoyable introduction for students and theater-goers, by founder of ballet program at Florida State University. Includes minimal information about music, but the provision of cultural context for both music and dance is very helpful.
Ballet and Modern Dance: A Concise History, Jack Anderson. (Trenton, NJ: Dance Horizons/Princeton Book Company Publishers. 2018, Third revised edition of the work first published in 1986.) An accessible introduction by the former dance critic of The New York Times and co-editor of the Dance Chronicle. Pages 15-151 cover European ballet.
Fifty Ballet Masterworks: From the 16th to the 20th Century. Lincoln Kirstein. (Mineola: Dover Publications, 1984 reprint of work first published in 1970.) Excellent chronological introduction with concise information about specific choreographic works, including the music. Among his many contributions to cultural life, Kirstein was responsible for the founding of New York City Ballet.
The Book of the Dance, Agnes de Mille. (New York: Golden Press, 1963.) Agnes de Mille was outstanding not only as a choreographer, but also as a writer. With amusing illustrations by N. M. Bodecker plus many photographs, this book offers a very accessible history of dance within cultural contexts in the West. Biographies of leading dance artists and a listing of principal dance works by major choreographers, plus de Mille’s observations about how choreographers create.
The Dance through the Ages, Walter Sorrell. (London:Thames and London, 1967.) A nice easy-read illustrated introduction to Western theatrical dance. Sorrell was a leading writer on the subject—and for older works, this is fine.
The Dancer’s Heritage: A Short History of Ballet, Ivor Guest. (London: The Dancing Times, 1984 edition of original 1960 work.) Author esteemed for his many books on ballet. Nice introduction for both music and dance students, and for the general reader.
Dance: A Short History of Classic Theatrical Dancing, Lincoln Kirstein. (Brooklyn: Dance Horizons republication of original 1935 work.) Another book by one of modern ballet’s major champions—this one exploring what he discovered starting with primitive dance and moving onward in time with considerable detail. However, he warns in the preface: “Theatrical dancing is a visual and personal art. It is supported by music, but music in this book will be less emphasized….”
A Short History of Ballet, Cyril W. Beaumont. (London: by the author, 1936.) Lives up to its title! Forty pages stripped down history of most important names you might want to know. Nothing about the musical components, but a nice really short volume for those who are new to ballet’s past. In his time, the author was a leading writer about dance.
Ballet: An Illustrated History, Mary Clarke and Clement Crisp. (New York: Universe Books, 1973.) A bit dated now, but still of interest because of accessible writing geared for general audience, plus some unusual b & w photos.
Ballet Art: From the Renaissance to the Present, Mary Clarke and Clement Crisp. (New York: Clarkson N. Potter, 1978.) The captions and brief essays that accompany the illustrations make this into an unusual introduction to the genre of ballet. Both color and b & w reproductions of sketches, paintings, and statues.
The Magic of Dance, Margot Fonteyn (British Broadcasting Corporation: London, 1980.) A companion to the BBC six-part television series by the same title (unfortunately not available in DVD now, though you may be able to access mountings of some episodes via You Tube). A delightful “easy read” for all, focused on the personalities and talents of performing dancers themselves. Dame Margot Fonteyn, now deceased, was the reigning ballerina with the Royal Ballet for many decades. Here she offers her personal insights purposefully not in a chronological history, but almost as a stream-of-consciousness based on topics and styles. Along the way one discovers an historical thread. Especially of interest is the last chapter, which traces theatrical ballet personalities and companies in London.
Ballet: The Definitive Illustrated Story, by the editors of DK with Viviana Durante, consultant and the Royal Ballet for guidance. (New York: Dorling Kindersley, 2018.) An oversized picture book with quite beautiful color illustrations plus brief boxed information about most famous dancers, choreographers, and ballets. Some information about a few composers. A nice book for browsing, though heavy to hold.
The Ballet Lover’s Companion, Zoë Anderson (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2015). Author gives British viewpoint. Book organized chronologically by dates of performance of versions of ballets most apt to be seen now—though quite a few might be unfamiliar to American audiences. Very little information about musical components; however, it is beautifully written and an enjoyable read about plots and basic information, plus brief but nice introductions to the various historical eras. Pertinent to note preponderance of ballets choreographed to extant concert music (especially in the years that she labels “The Ballet Boom”) rather than specially commissioned scores.
Oxford Music Online. For those who prefer to read online, by subscription, this source offers two fully-packed strictly chronological introductions, with subsections written by outstanding dance historians. Entries are: “Dance” (48 pp.); and “Ballet” (37 pp.)
Music for the Dance
There are not too many volumes focused on this subject (one reason for this current presentation), and some of the older scholarly works may be too densely written and too detailed for students and general readers of today to enjoy. However, these books are listed here because they are written in English.
Choreographer and Composer: Theatrical Dance and Music in Western Culture, Baird Hastings. (Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1983). The sheer number of names may be overwhelming to those just starting their investigations, but the book does offer a fast-paced introduction of Renaissance to modern times. The author (a New Yorker who died in 2007) was a conductor who also was co-founding editor of Dance Index and had hundreds of articles on both music and dance published elsewhere. Late in his career he was affiliated with The Juilliard School and American Ballet Theatre. Appendix includes brief descriptions of main dance forms from different timeframes, plus a table of instruments used by composers in different periods.
Ballet Music, Humphrey Searle. (New York: Dover Publications, 1973 revised edition of original 1958 work published in London.) The author was both composer and musical director of Sadler’s Wells Ballet. This is a non-technical volume tracing development of music for ballet from the Renaissance to modern works in the 1970s. Includes chart of some first performances 1581-1961. However, you can’t believe everything you read. Searle was very opinionated-for instance, castigating ballet music by Glazunov.
Ballet Music, Roger Fiske. (London: George G. Harrap & Company Ltd.,1958.)
A much briefer book (88 pages), with information about music written specifically for some of the most famous ballets—including Giselle, Coppélia, Sylvia, Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Nutcracker, Firebird, Petrushka and a couple of more modern ones, with discussion of the ballets and musical excerpts notating the main themes.
Music and the Dance, Elwood Priesing. (Hicksville: Exposition Press,1978.) This begins: “The dance has been the foundation of so much music that musicians should know more about dance history.” And of course, dancers may like to know something about scores for theatrical dance. Based on the author’s articles in Junior Keyboard magazine of the National Federation of Music Clubs, so it is geared to students and general readership, covering European styles from medieval times to 20th century.
Choreographic Music: Music for the Dance. Verna Arvey. (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1941.) An ambitious and wide-ranging exploration by the pianist/writer wife of composer William Grant Still. She had accompanied dancers herself, then carried on extensive interviews and correspondence with living composers to present an almost overwhelming amount of information about musical collaboration.
The Story of Dance Music, Paul Nettl. (New York: Philosophical Library, 1947.)
Another earlier book, for those wanting a rather thorough exploration. Starts with meditations about the possible origins of prehistoric dance and music and progresses through time of Romantic ballets, with a final chapter on modern ballet up to his time. The author was born in 1889 in what was then Bohemia, came to the U.S. in 1939, and became a professor of musicology at Indiana University in addition to writing many books in both German and English. He died in 1972.
The Dance in Classical Music, Paul Nettl. (New York: Philosophical Library, 1963.) The title suggests the reverse of what we are mainly investigating, namely music in dance! But this study is much briefer than the previous listing (168 pages) and makes for rather delightful reading, with anecdotes and engaging information about dancers and choreographers as well as about the dance in works of composers Gluck, Handel, Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. Based on the author’s Indiana University courses in the history of dance. (Aimed at the general reader—no scholarly footnotes etc.)
Minor Ballet Composers: Biographical Sketches of Sixty-Six Underappreciated Yet Significant Contributors to the Body of Western Ballet Music, by Bruce R. Schueneman and William E. Studwell (New York & London: Routledge, 2012.)
Stephanie Jordan, Moving Music: Dialogues with Music in Twentieth-Century Ballet (London: Dance Books, 2000). A most welcome study from a 21st century viewpoint. The author, trained in both dance and music, offers facts and analysis about relationships between the two arts, with references to many choreographers (chapters with particular focus on Balanchine, Ashton, and Tudor). She asks questions such as what does music do for the dance, and what does dance do for the music—then provides thoughtful insights about styles.
Musical Collaboration for Dance in America
Because the present study covers the history of music for dance in Europe and follows Balanchine’s move to the United States, with only a few examples after that (and does not include modern dance), some readers may want to pick up the story of collaboration, which is presented in the following volumes.
Making Music for Modern Dance: Collaboration in the Formative Years of a New American Art, Katherine Teck. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.) Collection of first-hand accounts by outstanding dancers, choreographers, and composers, spanning early 20th century innovations of Isadora Duncan and Martha Graham through the creative voices of Alvin Ailey, José Limón, Paul Taylor and others.
Music for the Dance: Reflections on a Collaborative Art, Katherine Teck. (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1989.) Based on personal interviews with several hundred dance artists and musicians as well as upon observations made in studios and performance halls, this volume presents a representative cross-section of what collaboration was like in the U.S. in the 1980s. Includes experiences of choreographers, dancers, composers, conductors, performing instrumentalists, and arts managers.
Movement to Music: Musicians in the Dance Studio, Katherine Teck. (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1990.) The first part of this book focuses on the collaboration that goes on between dancers and musicians in preparation for performances—from studio training to rehearsals for stage works. It draws on the observations of leading dancers, teachers, pianists, and percussionists who work in both classical and jazz styles. The second part offers suggestions for musicians accompanying dance.
Ear Training for the Body: A Dancer’s Guide to Music, Katherine Teck. (Pennington, N.J.: Princeton Book Company/Dance Horizons, 1994.) A textbook that covers the main ingredients of all music, presented in a way to meet the concerns and awareness of both dance students and professionals. It addresses the challenge of developing “musicality” in one’s dance performances, and draws upon personal interviews and observations of contemporary dance teachers, choreographers, composers, and instrumentalists.
Louis Horst: Musician in a Dancer’s World, Janet Mansfield Soares. (Durham: Duke University Press, 1992.) Biography of the pioneer of music for modern dance in the United States. He was conductor for Denishawn, then composer and pianist for Martha Graham, and teacher as well as coach and accompanist for many other choreographers.
And moving back in time
For information on music and dance in earlier years in America, this book is unique: Dance and Its Music in America: 1528-1789, Kate Van Winkle Keller. (Hillsdale, N.Y.: Pendragon Press, 2007.)
A very interesting collection of lively essays that introduce American music in its many facets, this is highly recommended: The Cambridge History of American Music, David Nicholls, editor. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998.)
Musical Instruments of the World: An Illustrated Encyclopedia with more than 4000 original drawings. Diagram Group. (New York: Facts on File,1976.) A wonderful book of drawings and very brief descriptions, organized by instrument types, geographical areas, and periods of history.
The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Musical Instruments from all eras and regions of the world. text by Bozhidar Abrashev and Vladimir Gadjev. Translated from Bulgarian. (Sofia: Koneman, 2006.) Photographs and drawings, organized by geography, musical epochs, and ensembles.
Musical Instruments and Their Homes, Mary Elizabeth Adams Brown and William Adams Brown. (Current Nabu reprint of work originally published in 1888.) A charming diversion: offers a catalog of the instrument collection of Mrs. John Crosby Brown (now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art) plus essays and drawings of many instruments used to accompany dance around the world.
The History of Orchestration. Adam Carse. (New York: Dover Publications, 1964 republication of work first published in 1925.) Continues to be a classic volume on instrumentation used in orchestral ensembles from the 16thcentury all the way to Debussy in the 20th century. Index includes listings for both composers and specific instruments.
Music History: Textbooks
It has long been a lament among dance teachers and musicians for dance that books about dance so often include next to nothing about the musical components—and that books about music typically offer little information about musical collaboration for dance. That said, here are some volumes currently available that may be of help to teachers and students of both music and dance, and to readers just exploring on their own.
Concise History of Western Music, 5th edition, Barbara Russano Hanning. (New York: W. W. Norton, 2014.) Includes access to online streaming of 220 works in Norton Anthology of Music plus two hours of Metropolitan Opera plus ebook version of same text. Ancient Greece to 21st century. Attractive textbook with maps, glossary, beautiful color illustrations; composer bios; information on cultural backdrop for each style period. Some notated examples but can be understood by those who cannot read music. Does include Information on dance through the ages and period instruments. Author is professor emeritus of The City College of New York. Highly recommended.
A History of Western Music, 9th edition, J. Peter Burkholder, Donald Jay Grout, and Claude V. Palisca (New York: W. W. Norton, 2014 revision of the work first published in 1960). This text provides an account of European art music, with later chapters on developments in the United States. Links to streaming recordings. Maps, brief bios of main composers and styles. Does include a few—but good—brief sections about dance music. Though intended as a text for college students, it is also recommended for other people to have on hand for reference. Illustrated.
Music: An Appreciation, Roger Kamien. (New York: McGraw-Hill, latest edition, 2017.) This is one text used by a number of musicians who teach courses for dance students, and it is often revised. Focus is on vocal and instrumental concert music intended for performance separate from theatrical dance—with the exception of discussion of Stravinsky’s Sacre du printemps from 1913. Musical examples on CD.
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Music History, Michael Miller. (New York: Alpha Books, 2008.) Because of the title, people may hesitate to buy this book or suggest it for students whose families may be paying big bucks for college coursework! But it turns out to be a good introduction to stylistic periods, outstanding masterpieces, and leading composers in European art music from the Middle Ages to modern times. Written in a breezy, succinct style, the book yet provides a survey of Western classical music, American popular music, and a brief introduction to “world music.” Clearly written to be understandable even to those with no previous musical study, it includes a glossary of terms. However, as usual with most books on music history, this one isn’t going to help you much with information about scores specifically composed for theatrical dance.
Music in the Early Twentieth Century, Oxford History of Western Music, volume 4, Richard Taruskin. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.) Monumental five-volume set for serious music students. The author devotes 60 pages of his 859-page volume 4 to a brief (but very good) survey of ballet, and focuses on Stravinsky’s music for ballets. Taruskin also wrote a monumental study: Stravinsky and the Russian Traditions (Berkley: University of California Press, 1996) in two volumes.
The Oxford History of Western Music: College Edition, Richard Taruskin and Christopher H. Gibbs. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.) A one-volume, 1212-page hefty textbook with a companion website and references. Like most academically-aimed music histories, this one is big on church and vocal music as well as concert works in the standard repertoire of orchestras and chamber groups—but short on mention of music meant to accompany either social or theatrical dance. The book offers a rather thorough stand-alone basic introduction to music and opera. It has nice historical maps, chapter summaries, and suggested study questions for teachers to consider. Includes a glossary and lists of books for further reading, by chapter.