Beautiful Dance Performances That Incorporate Books


As book lovers and library enthusiasts, we’re always on the lookout for works of art that pay homage to their beauty. When we spotted a beautiful performance set against a library of books at Art Fag City, which we feature after the jump, we were mesmerized by the dancer’s physical engagement with the space and the intersection of movement and stillness. Wanting to see how other dancers translated this concept, we discovered more performances that incorporated books and libraries — some within the dance itself, and others as a setting.

London-based artist Idris Khan filmed Sarah Warsop’s dance amongst a series of moving bookshelves that contained thousands of decommissioned library books for his triple-screen film installation, Lying in Wait. The minimalist project took two years to complete. The only sounds audible in Khan’s video are those recorded from the microphones strapped to Warsop’s thighs and the neck of her dress. The noises add to the tension of the mesmerizing piece and suggest the turning of pages. Watch the eight-minute video on The Space.

Photo via The Dartmouth

The special collections library at Dartmouth College was the stage for a quiet performance by the school’s dance ensemble. The group’s Revealing the Human Body was inspired by 16th-century anatomical illustrations. Dancers gracefully moved within a three-level, glass environment that houses the rare books.

Photo credit: Jordan Matter

Jordan Matter’s Dancers Among Us series captures dancers leaping through the air and performing impossible feats in the midst of daily life. This photo of a dancer suspended between shelves at a library is a startlingly beautiful image.

Photo credit: Ohio State University

Photo credit: Ohio State University

Thompson Library was the site of a dance work from Brian Devine, which saw dancers perform along multiple floors of the library’s east atrium. Their movements brought new life to the surrounding grand architecture and glass enclosures.

This whimsical performance by The Tea Set at bMoSo Academy of Song and Dance features book-inspired costumes, tea trolleys, and a piano player.

Photo credit: Ross William Hamilton

In an attempt to draw more teenagers to Oregon libraries, Washington County Cooperative Library Services called on dance troupe the Mid-City Breakers for a summer tour of 14 different libraries in the county. “We want them to feel comfortable coming to the library. We want them to see the library as a destination, a place where they can have fun,” youth services librarian Rick Samuelson said of the dance series.

Contemporary UK dance company Cascade performed Journey Through the Bookcase in the Tunbridge Wells Town Library. The troupe enjoys performances that support education across all age groups.

Photo credit: Petra Papp

Photo credit: Petra Papp

Photo credit: Petra Papp

Dancers Anne-Gaëlle Thiriot, Geneviève Giron, and Fay Patterson — using the name Latecomers — created a 2,000-book, pop-up library in the UK. Their choreography centered on each book’s journey to a new home.

This site-specific dance performance at Temple University’s Paley Library, choreographed by Becca Weber, explored “the hierarchy of mind over body,” where “nonverbal communication [gives] voice to the knowledge of histories in our bodies and [aligns] them with the knowledge in the books.” Indelible [I closed the book and I changed my life] was also inspired by a Bruce Smith poem.