Delve into dance resources at State Library

We are celebrating International Dance Day by delving into State Library’s dance resources.

About International Dance Day

International Dance Day was founded in 1982 and is celebrated every year on the 29th of April. This date is the birthday of Jean-Georges Noverre (1727-1810), the creator of modern ballet. Every year a message from an outstanding choreographer or dancer is circulated throughout the world to inspire and celebrate dancers and dancing. This year’s message is by Sue-jin Kang, dancer and artistic director of the Korean National Ballet. Read more about International Dance Day.

Discover dance resources at State Library

State Library has a wide range of dance resources, available in print and online. Library members can  borrow from the general collection and access databases and ebooks remotely. Membership is free.

Leap though level 3 shelves for general books about dance

Resources such as The Oxford dictionary of dance and The dance encyclopedia contain descriptions of all dance types and dance terms. Also covered in the information collection are dancer biographies, dance composition, folk dance, movement and so much more.

Dance related books on shelf at State Library.

You can search the library catalogue, One Search, using keywords to find books on various topics, or browse the open access shelves on Level 3. Here are some topical searches to get you started.

Catalogue search results for history of Brazilian dance.

Practice at home with ebooks about dance

You’ll find coverage of all sorts of dance topics in our ebook collection, including instructional guides explaining steps across various dance styles – Ballroom, ballet, jazz, contemporary and more. Search the catalogue using your keywords and select the ‘ebooks’ scope. You can read ebooks through the internet browser or more conveniently download them to a portable device.

A small selection of dance related ebooks available via State Library 

Print and online dance journals / magazines

Expect to find Australian and international dance magazines in our collection, both print and online. There is coverage for all sorts of dance topics, research, trends, advice for dancers and teachers, and resources for studio owners. Not to mention, so many articles are accompanied by the most inspiring dance photography.

You can grab a comfy seat on Level 3 and enjoy reading recent issues of Dance Australia magazine, one of the most respected dance journals in the country.  The Jan/Mar 2021 issue has a great article about returning to the dance studio post lockdown.

Dance Australia magazine, available at State Library of Queensland

Perhaps you prefer to access your journal content at home. Here are some great dance journals available online to State Library members. If you aren’t already a member register online and access these magazines instantly.

Watch world-famous ballets and archival dance footage

Among the many resources in State Library's audiovisual collections are several world famous ballets., Nutcracker, Don Quixote, Giselle, Romeo and Juliet, Sleeping Beauty and Coppelia. Library members can borrow from this video collection.

Members can also access dance video resources via State Library subscription databases, providing endless hours of viewing pleasure.

Video databases available via State Library, Dance Online and Music Online 

Watch world famous ballet recordings via the Classical Performance in Video database.

Search the Dance Online database and stream documentaries, instructional dance videos, interviews and performances, creating custom playlists along the way. You’ll be amazed to find some wonderful archival footage in the mix too. Here’s a favourite of mine from 1990, staring a young Eddie Torres, Maria Torres and Tito Puente, all pioneers of the Latin music and dance industry -¡A Bailar!: The Journey of a Latin Dance Company.


The ephemera collection includes concert and theatre programs, calendars, advertising, flyers and other similar material. Our ephemera is stored in boxes and arranged by subject. An easy way to search for ephemera in the One Search catalogue is to add the keyword “ephemera” alongside your subject term, and select the ‘State Library Collections’ scope. Ephemera can be requested via the catalogue and viewed on Level 4.  Here’s a little taster of some “Australian ballet” ephemera, featuring programs, dancer profiles and advertisements.

Selection of ephemera related to The Australian Ballet, held at State Library.

Digitized photographs

Much of State Library’s photographic collection is digitised, viewable and downloadable through the One Search catalogue. It’s a great resource to complement your dance research or just as an enjoyable viewing experience.

I recently used some of these State Library photographs of maypole dancing for a research request.

Digital photographs of maypole dancing (negative 144114, negative 77139, negative 62312)

Here’s a little insight about maypole dancing.

As a pagan ritual of the 13th century, with some medieval roots, and with strong links to pagan folklore, maypole dancing originally took place around a tall living tree, striped of its branches and decorated with flowers garlands and ribbons. These ribbons would be woven into complex patterns by people dancing around the tree (Britannica Library). As you might have noticed, the living tree was eventually replaced by a pole. The dance was typically performed on May Day (1 May) as a spring fertility rite. The maypole dance became further celebrated in various parts of the world, taking on a local name and significance. Some are listed below.

  • Maibaum (Germany and Austria)
  • Midsummer pole / midsommarstång (Swened and Finland)
  • Maypole (United States and Canada)
  • Sellenger’s Round (England)
  • El baile del cordón (Spain)
  • El baile de las Cintas (Mexico and Caribbean)
  • Sebucan (Venezuela)

There are some wonderful articles in the JSTOR database, highlighting the history and origins of maypole dancing.


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