Refresh your dance pedagogy and teaching methods


We all get stuck in a rut with our dance teaching methods from time to time, right? It can be easy to fall into habits as a dance teacher: our favorite exercises, our go-to corrections, our usual metaphors and imagery. We find ourselves “teaching as we were taught,” copying the dance pedagogy and teaching methods of our favorite teachers. While there is nothing wrong with relying on time-tested and effective dance teaching methods, it can also be really helpful to expand our pedagogy. We get tired of doing the same old thing in class after class – and so do our students. Learning new dance teaching strategies and approaches to dance pedagogy can help us keep things fresh in class, preventing boredom and burnout. Expanding your dance library with these books on dance pedagogy and teaching methods can be an easy and affordable way to keep things fresh in class.


About the books on this list


In this blog post, I’ve compiled a list of books on dance pedagogy and teaching methods. Some of these books are relevant for dance teachers of any genre, dance style, age group, or skill level. I’ve also included books specific to dance styles commonly taught in dance studios, K-12 schools, and colleges: creative dance, ballet, jazz, modern dance, tap, contemporary, and hip hop. Many of the books are ones I’ve read over and over again, others are on my to-read list. I know or have worked with many some of the authors, others are people I admire in the industry. This list is in no way comprehensive, it’s merely a start! There are so many great books on dance pedagogy and teaching methods out there. Am I missing a must-read? Please add it in the comments! Thank you!

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Recommended Books on Dance Pedagogy and Teaching Methods


Teaching Dance: The Spectrum of Styles

By Elizabeth Goodling

“Many of us are drawn to dance because we love the act of dancing. Teaching was something that came later. It is necessary to teach dance if we want to continue dancing and make a living doing it. Whether you are facing a class of students for the first time or are an experienced teacher, whether you teach children or adults, whether in a recreational setting or college, you will find this book an essential source of information. Supported by illustrations, numerous examples, sample lesson plans, activity suggestions, and discussion questions, Teaching Dance: The Spectrum of Styles is designed for use as a course textbook for student teachers and as a resource for the professional teacher. It includes practical tips and application suggestions with additional material downloadable from the website. Supported by illustrations, numerous examples, sample lesson plans, activity suggestions and discussion questions, Teaching Dance: The Spectrum of Styles is designed for use as a course textbook for student teachers and as a resource for the professional teacher. It includes practical tips and application suggestions with additional material downloadable from the website. This groundbreaking work brings the Spectrum of Teaching Styles originally developed by Muska Mosston and Sara Ashworth to the art and science of dance. The Spectrum will help dance teachers address many issues, including the following: For the beginning teacher, “Did I meet my objectives? How can I judge how well I did?” For the advanced teacher, “How can I encourage initiative and help students become more responsible and self-motivated?” “How can I continue to grow and improve as a teacher?” For the college or university teacher, “How do I help my colleagues in other disciplines and my administration understand dance as an academic discipline?” “How can I engage students cognitively and encourage critical thinking?” For teachers of children, “How can I focus on the creative possibilities of movement for each child and harness their love of discovery?” For teachers in private studios, “The students in my class are at several different levels! How can I coax the beginners and still challenge the more advanced students?” “How can I teach so that I reach every student, keep students coming back for more classes, and thus keep enrollment (and my business) up?” When teaching large classes, “How can I provide individualized feedback for every student in the class and still keep the class moving?”

Dance Pedagogy for a Diverse World: Culturally Relevant Teaching in Theory, Research and Practice

By Nyama McCarthy-Brown

Ethical Dilemmas in Dance Education: Case Studies on Humanizing Dance Pedagogy

Edited by Doug Risner andKaren Schupp 

“The first of its kind, this volume presents research-based fictionalized case studies from experts in the field of dance education, examining theory and practice developed from real-world scenarios that call for ethical decision-making. Dilemmas faced by dance educators in the studio, on stage, in recreation centers and correctional facilities, and on social media are explored, accompanied by activities for humanizing dance pedagogy. These challenges converge from educational policies and mandates developed over the past two decades, including teacher-proof scripted curriculum, high-stakes testing, standardization, and methods-centered teacher preparation; difficulties are often perpetuated by those who want to make change happen but do not know how.”

Dance Teaching Methods and Curriculum Design: Comprehensive K-12 Dance Education

By Danielle Jay-Kirschenbaum and Gayle Kassing 

“This new edition of Dance Teaching Methods and Curriculum Design is ideal for preparing undergraduate students to teach dance education. Students will learn a conceptual and comprehensive model of dance education that embraces dance as an art form and a lifelong physical activity. Students will gain the tools they need to teach various dance forms, create effective lesson and unit plans, and develop a curriculum that meets arts and education standards. The second edition of this foundational text uses a holistic approach to dance pedagogy for teaching children through adults in school and community environments. It also introduces theories from multiple disciplines and helps students apply those theories and processes when creating lesson and unit plans.”


Dance and Somatics: Mind-Body Principles of Teaching and Performance

By Julie A. Brodie and Elin E. Lobel 

“Training in somatic techniques–holistic body-centered movement that promotes awareness and well-being–provides an effective means of improving dance students’ efficiency and ease of movement. However, dance educators do not always have the resources to incorporate this knowledge into their classes. This volume explains the importance of somatics, introduces fundamental somatic principles that are central to the dance technique class, and offers tips on incorporating these principles into a dance curriculum. The authors demystify somatic thinking by explaining the processes in terms of current scientific research. By presenting both a philosophical approach to teaching as well as practical instruction tools, this work provides a valuable guide to somatics for dance teachers of any style or level.”

Teaching What You Want to Learn: A Guidebook for Dance and Movement Teachers

By Bill Evans

Teaching What You Want to Learn distills the five decades that Bill Evans has spent immersed in teaching dance into an indispensable guide for today’s dance instructor. From devising specific pedagogical strategies and translating theory into action, to working with diverse bodies and embracing evolving value systems, Evans has considered every element of the teacher’s role and provided 94 essential essays about becoming a more effective and satisfied educator. As well as setting out his own particular training methods and somatic practice as one of the world’s leading dance teachers, he explores the huge range of challenges and rewards that a teacher will encounter across their career. These explorations equip the reader not only to enable and empower their students but also to get the most out of their own work so they are learning as they teach. This is an essential book for anyone who wants to teach dance and movement, from professional and academic settings to amateur artists and trainee instructors.”

Making an Entrance: Theory and Practice for Disabled and Non-Disabled Dancers

By Adam Benjamin

Making an Entrance is the first ever practical introduction to teaching dance with disabled and non disabled students. This clearly written, thought provoking and hugely enjoyable manual is essential reading whether you’re just starting out or are already active in the field. Taking improvisation as his focus and as the starting point of choreographic exploration, Adam Benjamin asks what it has to offer as an art form and how it can be better used to meet the changing needs of dance education. In the theoretical section Benjamin explores the history of a disintegrated dance practice, placing it within the wider context of cultural and political movements. He questions what is meant today when we talk about ‘inclusive’ or ‘integrated dance’ and what we might expect of it. The book includes over 50 exercises and improvisations designed to stimulate and challenge students at all levels of dance. Benjamin also includes useful hints on the practicalities of setting up workshops covering issues as diverse a class size, the safety aspects of wheelchairs and the accessibility of dance spaces.”

Ballet Pedagogy: A Conceptual Approach to Teaching Classical Dance

By Marilyn Z Gaston

“This book is an invaluable tool for the prospective or experienced ballet teacher, college dance major, professional dancer, or dance student. It would be an ideal textbook as well for university dance pedagogy courses. Unlike many books on the subject of teaching ballet it is not merely a list of vocabulary words, a pictorial showing of steps or exercises, or written descriptions of dance combinations. Rather, the ‘conceptual approach’ provides insight into how a dancer’s technique develops through understanding what lies behind the correct execution of steps and exercises-vital knowledge for every successful teacher and student. In the author’s own words, “the teaching of steps does not equate to the teaching of technique or artistry] in dance. It is easy to teach steps, but a full understanding of them is required in order to teach technique.” The book outlines the priority and correct progression, through levels of difficulty, of each part of the ballet class. It defines and connects the ten most important concepts (such as placement, turnout, isolation, flexibility-among others) with the exercises that best foster their development and that allow the student to eventually execute each individual step with precision and without injury. Following the historical precedents established by the recognized ballet syllabi and curricula in use today, the ‘conceptual approach’ encourages teachers to be creative while giving them the tools to develop a personalized strong dance program that consistently results in exceptional student dancers. There are many examples and visual aids here to clearly present the progressions as a student should experience them, along with detailed explanations of steps and combinations that correlate to every level. Color photographs enhance the text.”

Creative Ballet Teaching: Technique and Artistry for the 21st Century Ballet Dancer

By Cadence Whittier, Illustrated by Kim Cooper Geigerich 

“How do teachers create a classroom environment that promotes collaborative and inquiry-based approaches to learning ballet? How do teachers impart the stylistic qualities of ballet while also supporting each dancer’s artistic instincts and development of a personal style? How does ballet technique education develop the versatility and creativity needed in the contemporary dance environment? Creative Ballet Teaching draws on the fields of Laban/Bartenieff Movement Analysis (L/BMA), dance pedagogy, and somatic education to explore these questions. Sample lesson plans, class exercises, movement explorations, and journal writing activities specifically designed for teachers bring these ideas into the studio and classroom. A complementary online manual, Creative Ballet Learning, provides students with tools for technical and artistic development, self-assessment, and reflection. Offering a practical, exciting approach, Creative Ballet Teaching is a must-read for those teaching and learning ballet.”

By James Robey

“Human Kinetics’ Interactive Dance Series includes Beginning Tap Dance, Beginning Ballet, Beginning Modern Dance, and now Beginning Jazz Dance and Beginning Musical Theatre Dance. These titles are the traditional dance courses taught through dance, physical education, and fine arts departments for general education students, dance majors, and minors. Using the steps to success model and adaptations from the Outdoor Adventure series, these beginning dance titles contain components from these previous series. Beginning Jazz Dance is the perfect resource for helping students gain a strong foundation of beginning jazz dance techniques.”

Jazz Dance Class: Beginning Thru Advanced

By Gus Giordano

“A highly illustrated reference to all aspects of jazz, this book introduces exercises, anatomical information, and standard jazz dance terminology.”

Luigi’s Jazz Warm Up: An Introduction to Jazz Style & Technique

By Luigi, Lorraine Kriegel, and Francis Roach 

“For the beginning or intermediate student of any age, this complete body warmup also provides an introduction to Luigi’s lyrical jazz style. Developed over a 45 year period of teaching, Luigi’s pioneering method is based on anatomically sound principles, using center and floor work exclusively. He believes that students should learn how to support and control themselves totally from within and find the feeling of using space as a barre.”

Beginning Hip-Hop Dance

By E. Moncell Durden

Since its development in the United States in the 1970s, hip-hop has grown to become a global dance phenomenon. In Beginning Hip-Hop Dance, students gain a strong foundation and learn the fundamentals of hip-hop techniques as they venture into the exciting world of this dance genre. Written by dance educator, historian, and scholar E. Moncell Durden, Beginning Hip-Hop Dance gives students the opportunity to:

  • explore hip-hop history and techniques, foundational information, and significant works and artists;
  • understand the styles and aesthetics of hip-hop dance as a performing art and cultural art form; and
  • learn about the forms of hip-hop dance, such as locking, waacking, popping and boogaloo, and house.

Beginning Hip-Hop Dance is a comprehensive resource that provides beginning dance students—dance majors, minors, or general education students with an interest in dance—a solid foundation in this contemporary cultural dance genre. It intertwines visual, auditory, and kinesthetic modes of learning and offers students the techniques and knowledge to build onto the movements that are presented in the book and video clips. Beginning Hip-Hop Dance is the ideal introduction to this exciting dance genre.

Creative Dance for All Ages

By Anne Green Gilbert

Creative Dance for All Ages, Second Edition, has had a long history of providing a dance curriculum to teachers and students preparing to teach creative dance. Author Anne Gilbert demystifies expectations when teaching creative dance and provides the theory, methods, and lesson ideas for success in a variety of settings and with students of all ages. This one-stop resource offers dance teachers everything they need, including a sequential curriculum, lesson plans, instructional strategies, assessment, and other forms. It’s like having a seasoned dance teacher at your side offering inspiration and guidance all year long. Internationally recognized master teacher and author Anne Gilbert Green presents creative dance for everyone and tips on meeting the challenges of teaching it. She offers a complete package for teaching creative dance that includes the theory, methodology, and lesson plans for various age groups that can be used in a variety of settings. Gilbert also offers an entire dance curriculum for sequential teaching and learning. The second edition of her classic text has been revised, reorganized, and updated to meet all the needs of dance teachers.”

Basic Concepts in Modern Dance: A Creative Approach

By Gay Cheney 

“An introduction to modern dance and body movement techniques, this guide begins with an overview of the history of modern dance and proceeds to a discussion of basic body movement, improvisation, and choreography. A series of clearly photographed exercises enables the dancer to execute each movement properly and to learn to use the body more effectively and expressively.”

Introduction to Modern Dance Techniques

By Joshua Legg

“Bringing together all of the major modern dance techniques from the last 80 years, this engaging account is the first of its kind. The informative discussion starts by mapping the historical development of modern dance: in the late 19th century, a new dance emerged–not yet known as modern dance–that rejected social strictures and ballet as well. With insight into the personalities and purposes of modern dance’s vanguard–including Martha Graham, Lester Horton, José Limón, and Merce Cunningham–this compilation provides a comparative approach that will enable students to discern which technique best suits them and dispel the idea that there is a single, universal modern dance technique. There are also ideas for experimentation so that students can begin developing an aesthetic sense for not only what is pleasing to their artistic eye, but also for what technical ideas are exciting while their own body is in motion. Sample lessons are included for teachers to incorporate the text into courses.”

Beginning Modern Dance

By Miriam Giguere

Beginning Modern Dance text and web resource introduce undergraduate and high school students to modern dance as a performing art through participation, appreciation, and academic study in the dance technique course. In the book, 50 photos with concise descriptions support students in learning beginning modern dance technique and in creating short choreographic or improvisational studies. For those new to modern dance, the book provides a friendly orientation on the structure of a modern dance technique class and includes information regarding class expectations, etiquette, and appropriate attire. Students also learn how to prepare mentally and physically for class, maintain proper nutrition and hydration, and avoid injury. Beginning Modern Dance supports students in understanding modern dance as a performing art and as a medium for artistic expression. The text presents the styles of modern dance artists Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey and José Limón, Katherine Dunham, Lester Horton, and Merce Cunningham along with an introduction to eclectic modern dance style. Chapters help students begin to identify elements of modern dance as they learn, view, and respond to dance choreography and performance.”

Harnessing the Wind: The Art of Teaching Modern Dance

By Jan K. Erkert

Harnessing the Wind: The Art of Teaching Modern Dance gives you the theoretical knowledge, the practical tips, and the inspiration to prepare the next generation of dancers to meet the demands of contemporary dance. This book combines information about constructing and presenting a dance class with personal reflections about the art of teaching modern dance and integrating somatic theories, scientific research, and contemporary aesthetic practices. It provides new teachers with a solid theoretical base and incites experienced teachers to reexamine and revitalize their teaching. The book asks dance instructors to make conscious choices about what, why, and how they teach. Advocating an individualistic approach, it helps teachers understand how their personal dance interests and interpretations influence their teaching styles.”

The Essential Guide to Contemporary Dance Techniques

By Melanie Clarke

“Explore the multifaceted learning processes and underlying principles behind the technical skills and abilities of a contemporary dancer. The depth and complexity of this challenging sensorial, intellectual, reflective, and creative process is presented with clarity, to support every training dancer in achieving the most from their learning experiences. With contributions from teachers at top dance institutions, this guide offers a unique insight into the expectations and processes of professional training classes.”

Thelma’s Tap Notes: Children’s and Adult’s Editions

By Thelma Goldberg

Children’s Edition: “A step-by-step guide to teaching tap to children ages 6-12 in an easy-to-read format. Information about what to teach, when to teach it and how to teach it is included. Class Outlines, Music Recommendations, Combos, Choreography Ideas, Musical Rhythms, Improvisation Activities as well as Tap History provide material and guidance for both the experienced and new tap educator. Included are exercises and drills based on a series of progressively challenging rhythms to promote sequential progress in the major areas of tap education. Inspiring photos of tap students in action reinforce the passion and joy of sharing rhythms for both students and teachers.”
Tap into Life: Thelma’s Tap Notes presents Tap into Life: A Guide to Tap Dancing for Adults. This second book in the series is both a do-it-yourself for the adult learner as well as a guide for teachers. Three levels are offered with specific goals, the technique required to reach them, and hundreds of exercises and combos in 11 fundamental skill areas: Music Theory, Walking and Stepping, Rudiments, Ball Changes, Double Heels, Shuffles, Slaps and Flaps, Spanks, Paddle and Rolls, Time Steps and Improvisation. In addition, detailed notes for the Shim Sham, Coles Stroll, and the B.S. Chorus are included as well as a Timeline of Tap History and Bios of famous tap dancers.

The Essential Guide to Tap Dance

By Derek Hartley

“From the propulsive rhythm of the African dancer, to the swinging ragtime of the American jazz age, tap dancing has evolved into a unique blend of cultural expression, improvisation and creativity, open to all ages and abilities. With clear step-by-step instructions, The Essential Guide to Tap Dance covers basic steps such as the shuffle, pick up and paddle, before building these into traditional combinations such as the time step and shim sham. Additional material includes the history and development of tap dancing; rhythm and musicality; learning the language of tap dancing; the role of improvisation and choreography and finally, the basic steps to advanced techniques. This is the perfect companion to instruct the beginner tap dancer and expand the more experienced dancer’s technique, offering full-colour pictures, helpful instruction and essential notes on this vibrant and accessible dance form.”


Am I missing a must-read? Please add it in the comments! Thank you! 

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