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Dance: Start Here

This guide gives an overview of resources and information for research about dance.



 "Fondly Do We Hope...Fervently Do We Pray" by Bill T. Jones [image from]

Though not exhaustive, this is an introduction to the core Dance-centric tools and resources available at the Lyman Beecher Brooks Library.

Good luck with your Dance research! We want to highlight a new (as of 2021) research guide from the Library of Congress: Dance Research at the Library of Congress. This link will give you access to archive collections from LOC's extensive resources.

Topics in Dance

Research topics in dance and dance history can be rich combinations of influences and subjects. You can begin to develop your topic with a specific style in mind, such as ballet or tap, or specific techniques such as en pointe or gancho. Combining techniques and styles in a particular place or period of time is a common way to develop a more complex research topic.

It is easy to develop complex topics further by also considering a specific time period, a specific location, or specific practitioners. Who are some of Mexico's women dancers and what are key features in their work? What are differences in the hip hop dance of Los Angeles and New York City?

In the study of dance history, styles and periods are central concepts in the discipline. Distinct historical time periods such as Baroque, Medieval, and Renaissance are organizing concepts used to describe significant periods artistic activity. Other important organizing concepts refer to stylist attributes, such as Mannerist, Gothic, or Moderne. Sometimes specific groups of dancers give rise to a school of work that refers both to stylistic or philosophical tendencies called movements or genres.

Before you begin your research, brainstorm keywords that will help you locate relevant material.

Examples of styles and techniques:

  • aplomb (ballet)
  • enpointe (ballet)
  • bourree (ballet)
  • Guapacha timing (ballroom)
  • Promenade position (ballroom)
  • Headspin (hip-hop)
  • The worm (hip-hop)
  • jazz piroutte (turn)
  • grand jete (leap)
  • Graham (Contemporary dance technique)

Examples of forms and genres:

  • Jig
  • Waltz
  • Tango
  • Disco
  • Ballroom
  • Electonica
  • Hip-hop
  • Ballet
  • Tap
  • Modern

 Examples of periods and styles:

  • Medieval
  • Renaissance
  • Baroque
  • English Regency
  • Polka craze (mid 19th century)
  • Ragtime
  • Roaring twenties
  • Swing (30's and 40's)
  • Contemporary
  • Street


Read about dancers and choreographers you admire and find out what inspired them in the databases below. In the A to Z list of databases, locate the listed database.


Other Guides on Dance