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Dance Theory

Source Readings from Two Millennia of Western Dance

A Critical Anthology by Tilden Russell

Publication Date - 19 March 2020

ISBN: 9780190059767

320 pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

In Stock


The history of dance theory has never been told. Writers in every age have theorized prescriptively, according to their own needs and ideals, and theorists themselves having continually asserted the lack of any pre-existing dance theory. Dance Theory: Source Readings from Two Millenia of Western Dance revives and reintegrates dance theory as a field of historical dance studies, presenting a coherent reading of the interaction of theory and practice during two millennia of dance history. In fifty-five selected readings with explanatory text, this book follows the various constructions of dance theories as they have morphed and evolved in time, from ancient Greece to the twenty-first century.

Dance Theory is a collection of source readings that, commensurate with current teaching practice, foregrounds dance and performance theory in its presentation of western dance forms. Divided into nine chapters organized chronologically by historical era and predominant intellectual and artistic currents, the book presents a history of an idea from one generation to another. Each chapter contains introductions that not only provide context and significance for the individual source readings, but also create narrative threads that link different chapters and time periods. Based entirely on primary sources, the book makes no claim to cite every source, but rather, in connecting the dots between significant high points, it attempts to trace a coherent and fair narrative of the evolution of dance theory as a concept in Western culture.


  • Treats theory in depth and as a discrete topic relevant to theatrical and social dance equally
  • Includes readings dating from Antiquity to the present/Plato to POMO, linked by a narrative thread
  • Introduces, explains, and contextualizes sources in non-professorial language

About the Author(s)

Tilden Russell is Professor Emeritus of Music at Southern Connecticut State University. The Compleat Dancing Master (2012), his two-volume translation with commentary of Gottfried Taubert's Rechtschaffener Tantzmeister, received the Society of Dance History Scholars' de la Torre Bueno Prize Special Citation. He further explores early eighteenth-century German dance theory in Theory and Practice in Eighteenth-Century Dance: The German-French Connection (2017), and is co-author, with Dominique Bourassa, of The Menuet de la cour (2007). He has written and lectured on Taubert and his contemporaries, dance theory, the minuet and scherzo, and other topics in dance and music history, with articles published in Dance Research, Dance Chronicle, The Journal of Musicology, Journal of the American Musicological Society, Musical Quarterly, Acta musicologica, Imago musicae, Beethoven Forum, The New Grove 2nd edition, and elsewhere.


"From Plato and Aristotle to postmodern dance, this well-edited anthology collects source readings on diverse theories on Western dance...this is a coherent record of thought about dance, providing not only theoretical ideas but a history of dance as well. Summing Up: Essential. Lower -- division undergraduates through faculty; professionals; general readers." -- J. Fisher, CHOICE

"Tilden Russell provides a fascinating and all-encompassing look at dance theory from the Greeks to the early 21st century through primary source readings, and brings the subject of dance history to vivid life. Dance Theory should be used as the basis of every university dance history course from here on out!" -- Thomas Baird, The Juilliard School and Purchase College, SUNY

"Tilden Russell's book is for dance theory what Oliver Strunk's Source Readings was for music history, in 1950: the first comprehensive compilation of primary-source writings in its field in English. With his commentary on these judiciously selected and (where necessary) expertly translated texts, Russell traces the serpentine, and sometimes discontinuous, path of important thinking on dance over the centuries, going a long way toward providing the overarching history of dance theory that we still lack." -- Bruce Alan Brown, University of Southern California

Table of Contents

    List of Illustrations

    Introduction: Dance Theory as a Problem in Dance History

    Chapter 1. Dance Theory to ca. 1300
    1.1. Plato
    1.2. Aristotle
    1.3. Plutarch
    1.4. Lucian of Samosata
    1.5. Johannes de Grocheio

    Chapter 2. The Renaissance
    2.1. Domenico da Piacenza
    2.2. Antonio Cornazano
    2.3. Guglielmo Ebreo
    2.4. Thoinot Arbeau
    2.5. Fabritio Caroso

    Chapter 3. The Seventeenth Century
    3.1. François De Lauze
    3.2. Claude-François Menestrier

    Chapter 4. The Early Enlightenment: German and English Dance Theory, 1703-1721
    4.1. Samuel Rudolph Behr
    4.2. Johann Pasch
    4.3. Gottfried Taubert
    4.4. John Weaver

    Chapter 5. Dance Theory from Feuillet to the Encyclopédie
    5.1. Giambatista Dufort
    5.2. Bartholome Ferriol y Boxeraus
    5.3 Pierre-Alexandre Hardouin
    5.4. Louis de Cahusac

    Chapter 6. Divergent Paths: Noverre
    6.1. Jean-Georges Noverre
    6.2. Giovanni-Andrea Gallini
    6.3. Johann George Sulzer
    6.4. Gennaro Magri
    6.5. Charles Compan

    Chapter 7. The Nineteenth Century and Fin de siècle: Practice Ascendent
    7.1. Jean-Étienne Despréaux
    7.2. Carlo Blasis
    7.3. Arthur St. Léon
    7.4. G. Léopold Adice
    7.5. Friedrich Albert Zorn
    7.6. Eugène Giraudet
    7.7. Edmond Bourgeois

    Chapter 8. The Twentieth Century: Modernist Theory
    8.1. Rudolf von Laban
    8.2. Margaret N. H'Doubler
    8.3. African American Dance Theory I
    8.3a. Zora Neale Hurston, and 8.3b. Katherine Dunham
    8.3c. Robert Farris Thompson
    8.3d. Brenda Dixon Gottschild
    8.4. Martha Graham
    8.5a. Alwin Nikolais, and 8.5b. Murray Louis
    8.6a. Flavia Pappacena, and 8.6b. Susanne Franco

    Chapter 9. Postmodern Dance Theory and Anti-Theory
    9.1a. Merce Cunningham, and 9.1b,c. Yvonne Rainer
    9.2. Susan Leigh Foster
    9.3. André Lepecki and Jenn Joy
    9.4. African American Dance Theory II
    9.4a. Thomas F. DeFrantz, and 9.4b. Anita Gonzalez
    9.4c. Halifu Osumare
    9.4d. Nadine George-Graves
    9.4e. Philipa Rothfield and Thomas F. DeFrantz
    9.5a. Susan Leigh Foster, and 9.5b. P.A.R.T.S. (Performing Arts Research and Training Studios)
    9.6a. Kent De Spain, and 9.6b. Janet Lansdale
    9.7. Gabriele Brandstetter

    Appendix: Table of Dance Periodization