In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Dance and Film

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Dance Theory Fundamentals
  • Culture, Performance, and Cinema
  • Documenting Dance
  • Translating Dance onto the Screen

Cinema and Media Studies Dance and Film
Sangita Shresthova
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 October 2011
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 October 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791286-0091


The aesthetic, temporal, and interactive intersections of dance, film, and most recently new media cut across avant-garde art and popular culture domains. An increasingly recognized subgenre, dance films draw on physical and spatial aspects inherent to dance as well as the visual and temporal abilities of film and video in order to create a new expressive medium. Ranging from popular applications in music videos to avant-garde experimental projects, dance films created for the camera are celebrated at dedicated film festivals around the world. Since their inception in the early 20th century, Hollywood musicals and Bollywood song-and-dance sequences have firmly rooted film dance in popular culture. More recently, reality shows such as ABC’s Dancing with the Stars and NBC’s So You Think You Can Dance? brought virtuosic and popular dance as competition to primetime television. And dance even has been introduced into interactive and virtual spaces as choreographers and their engineers engage new-media technologies. This bibliography collects published works that engage and explore screen dance through various disciplines and methodologies.

General Overviews

Several scholarly and practitioner-oriented works provide useful overviews of the considerations raised through the intersection of dance, film, video, and new media. Bench 2008 perhaps provides the most comprehensive and academically rigorous exploration of dance and media and takes a body-centered approach. Brannigan 2011, Dodds 2001, and Mitoma 2002 are useful overview texts for those who want to become familiar with the genre of dance on film and the disciplinary approaches that support such inquiry. The other works in this section take on particular perspectives in their analysis of dance on film. Marks 2000 focuses on the role of embodiment in intercultural cinema. Rosenberg 2000 engages the choreography as a key consideration in thinking through dance on film. Providing a more historical perspective, Knight 1967, a Dance Perspectives special issue titled “Cine-Dance,” presents key practitioners and guiding principles for film dance in the 1960s. Spain 1998 offers a very comprehensive annotated reference guide of 1,400 dance films, which cut across various aesthetic and artistic genres.

  • Bench, Harmony. “Choreographing Bodies in Dance-Media.” PhD diss., University of California, Los Angeles, 2008.

    A definitive addition to the body of work on dance on screen, this dissertation explores approaches to dance and media, broadly defined. With a specific focus on dancing bodies, Bench makes a significant contribution to conceptualizations of corporeality.

  • Brannigan, Erin. Dancefilm: Choreography and the Moving Image. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.

    Brannigan traces the evolution of dance films back to the birth of cinema. Exploring the choreographic possibilities of the close-up, gestures, and the legacy of Maya Deren, the book stresses the role of gesture in the creation of meaning.

  • Dodds, Sherril. Dance on Screen: Genres and Media from Hollywood to Experimental Art. Houndmills, Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave, 2001.

    This book traces the complicated connection between dance and film, cutting across genres ranging from popular culture to avant-garde experimental art, with an explicit focus on the relationship among dancers, cameras, and spectators.

  • Knight, Arthur, ed. Special Issue: Cine-Dance. Dance Perspectives 30 (Summer 1967).

    This special issue focuses on early dance on screen. It contains articles written mostly by dance-on-film practitioners of that era.

  • Marks, Laura U. The Skin of the Film: Intercultural Cinema, Embodiment, and the Senses. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2000.

    Engaging cultural memory, globality, modernity, embodiment, and media, Marks explores intercultural cinema (mostly in the decade 1985–1995).

  • Mitoma, Judy, ed. Envisioning Dance on Film and Video. New York: Routledge, 2002.

    Featuring voices of theorists, critics, and practitioners (choreographers, filmmakers, and other artists), this book provides an accessible (albeit somewhat fleeting) fifty-three-essay overview of the last one hundred years of dance, film, and video. The included DVD with excerpts that accompany some of the entries is an added and useful bonus.

  • Mueller, John E. Dance Film Directory: An Annotated and Evaluative Guide to Films on Ballet and Modern Dance. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Book Co., 1979.

    This annotated filmography focuses explicitly on ballet- and modern-dance-related films.

  • Rosenberg, Douglas. “Video Space: A Site for Choreography.” Leonardo 33.4 (2000): 275–280.

    DOI: 10.1162/002409400552658

    Rosenberg engages cinema and dance and stresses the importance of the choreographed dancing body. Text available online at Rosenberg’s website.

  • Spain, Louise. Dance on Camera: A Guide to Dance Films and Videos. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 1998.

    This book annotates upward of 1,400 films and videos and endeavors to include a wide range of dances on-screen. The guide provides date, running time, and other details for each entry.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.