We’re happy you are interested in U.S. dance! There are a number of books, publications, videos, and other resources to help in contextualizing the vast and varied U.S. dance scene.
Contemporary Views of American Dance
Jacob’s Pillow Dance Interactive is a site hosted by the famous dance center, school, and performance space. Not all companies shown are U.S. companies, but it’s a comprehensive source for video with clips from the 1930s to today.
The website for the Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography (MANCC) has video clips and information from every artist who has been in residence there. The Kitchen, a performance space in New York, also has a video archive beginning from the 1970s.
The New York Times is the most widely recognized source of dance reviews in New York. The Brooklyn Rail’s Dance section provides a more independent forum for criticism. The Movement Research Performance Journal covers social/political currents in the U.S. dance world. The Brooklyn Commune Project is dedicated to looking at the economic and political forces at work in the lives of U.S. performing artists, and their publication The View From Here is a snapshot of the difficulty in funding U.S. dance.
There are a number of dance service organizations in the U.S., most notably:
Dance/USA: The national voice for professional dance in America, with a strong membership and several research projects.
DanceNYC: Works in alliance with Dance/USA to promote the knowledge, appreciation, practice, and performance of dance in the metropolitan New York City area. Similar metropolitan organizations include Dancer’s Group in the Bay Area and Audience Architects in Chicago.
Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation: The service organization for the mid-Atlantic region, MAAF also runs USArtists International, a grant program that provides funds to U.S. artists going to international festivals.
New England Foundation for the Arts: The service organization for the New England region, NEFA also runs The National Dance Project, which provides funds for the creation, touring, production, and international exchange of new work.
SouthArts: A regional arts organization which provides grants, programs and services to artists and arts organizations in the southern United States.
Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP): A national service, advocacy and membership organization for the performing arts presenting industry and the convener of APAP|NYC, the world’s leading gathering of performing arts professionals, held every January in New York City.
If Martha Graham was right and “movement never lies,” U.S. dance tells a story about the collective and social body as well as the individual one. While history books are outside of the scope of this bibliography, Warren Susman’s Culture as History (1973) is a particularly enjoyable cultural overview of the U.S. in the 20th century.
A by-decade overview of the New York dance scene in the late 20th century: Wendy Perron’s Through the Eyes of a Dancer.
For an introduction to the Judson Church movement in 1960s New York, which marked a sharp shift in the U.S. approach to dancing and dance making, Sally Banes is widely considered the preeminent historian of this era.
- Terpsichore in Sneakers: Post-Modern Dance
- Greenwich Village 1963: Avant-Garde Performance and the Effervescent Body
- Democracy’s Body: Judson Church 1962-1964
A comprehensive introduction to the influential Merce Cunningham: Carolyn Brown’s Chance and Circumstance.
On the ballet side, Balanchine was a primary influence in the development of an “American style” of ballet. The later chapters of Jennifer Homan’s Apollo’s Angels discusses his aesthetics, along other biographies of him and his muses.
Many Balanchine works are available as clips on YouTube or as DVDs as well.