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Learn to Speak Dance: A Guide to Creating, Performing & Promoting Your Moves by A.-M. Williams

Williams, Ann-Marie. Learn to Speak Dance: A Guide to Creating, Performing & Promoting Your Moves. Toronto: Owlkids Books, 2011. Print.

Following on the success of Learn to Speak Music by John Crossingham, dancer and dance teacher Ann-Marie Williams has compiled a second volume in the Learn to Speak series that explores the many and varied aspects of dance. The book begins with an explanation of what dance is and why we do it, then takes the reader through the stages of starting out in dance, setting up your own dance group, developing choreography, performing, and promoting your work. It ends with a brief description of a small sampling of dance styles including belly dance, Bollywood, and Broadway. Scattered throughout are quotes from current professional dancers and dance judges (mainly Canadians!) representing a wide range of styles, as well as recommendations for movies and dance videos to watch that each provide excellent examples of different elements of the dance world. The book is packed full with fun illustrations with simple, rotating colour schemes. Jeff Kulak’s drawings are sometimes abstract, sometimes cartoonlike, but unfortunately sometimes display very awkward-looking body positions and odd-looking faces.

If readers are expecting a how-to guide about how to dance, they will be disappointed. Books are not the best format for learning how to move anyway. Instead, they will find more of a focus on the business side of things such as how to work well in a group, what happens backstage with lighting and sound, tips on developing a website and putting together a press release. The target age range of 9 to 13 might therefore be a bit young for this type of information. The content might be better suited for those in their upper teens who are setting up dance crews after school and are more likely to want to start organizing their own dance programs.

The book aims to make dance accessible, and encourages kids with or without any experience to explore the various facets of dance. It takes a very supportive tone, and includes good suggestions for building confidence and finding your personal style. The author is definitely knowledgeable about dance and has a lot of excellent and informative advice to share. Young readers will likely require adult help, though, if trying to follow many of the recommendations.

Recommended: 3 out of 4 stars
Reviewer: Trish Chatterley

Trish is a Public Services Librarian for the John W. Scott Health Sciences Library at the University of Alberta. In her free time she enjoys dancing, gardening, and reading books of all types.