Resources and references

Academic material is notoriously unreliable when it comes to properly identifying jazz dancers and recounting histories. The most reliable sources are biographies from dancers who lived through events, but as with all primary sources - and secondary! - it is important to remember that these are the accounts from one person's perspective.

I have listed here some books which are regarded as authoritative within the contemporary jazz dance world (eg biographies), and some academic sources which have proved useful for less disputable facts (eg release dates for films). I have also included some online sources which may or may not be accurate (eg

For the most part, I have tried to keep data as simple as possible, so as to avoid the pitfalls of disputed 'facts'. I have relied heavily on my human contacts and have tried to double check published 'facts' with details from more reliable community sources. The items below have proved useful, if only as beginning points.

I have found discographies for particular musicians and bands (especially Duke Ellington) useful for identifying films and soundies featuring dancers. These often mention that there were dancers in a particular film, but do not always mention indivdiual dancers within a performance group.


  • DeFrantz, Thomas F. ed, Dancing Many Drums: Excavations in African American Dance, University of Wisconsin Press, Wisconsin, 2002.
    DeFrantz' collection brings together some of the best-respected writers on black American dance, and the collection as a whole positions jazz dance (among other dances) within cultural and social context. The discussions of concert dance and ballet are particularly useful.
  • Malone, Jacqui, Steppin' on the Blues: The Visible Rhythms of African American Dance.
    Malone's book traces jazz dance from Africa to the jazz age, into the New Orleans second lines, to college marching bands and stepping. Again, her work may lack some details at some points, but her historical contextualising is fascinating and useful.
  • Manning, Frankie and Cynthia R. Millman, Frankie Manning: Ambassador of Lindy Hop, Temple University Press, Pennsylvania, 2007.
    One of the most reliable and rich histories of jazz dance.
  • McCann, Bob, Encyclopdia of African American Actresses in Film and Television, 2009. (Google books entry)
  • Stearns, Marshall and Jean, Jazz Dance: the Story of American Vernacular Dance, De Capo Press: New York, 1994.
    The Stearns' research has been called into question at various stages, but it remains the most comprehensive accounting of jazz dance up until its first publication in 1966. Marshall Stearns not only interviewed dancers for this book, he also appeared with dancers like Al Minns and Leon James in live, televised programs and demonstrations.
  • Stevens, Tamara. Swing Dancing, ABC-CLIO, Pasadena, 2011. (Google Books entry)

Online sources

  • Plenty of Good Women Dancers
    An online exhibition about women dancers (primarily tappers) from the Philadelphia Folklore Project (last updated 2009).
    Ordinarily the most comprehensive and useful online guide to films, I have found the entries for more obscure soundies and early films less reilable, often not including complete cast lists, and often using incrorrect names. But this is a useful starting point.
  • An issue of Scholar and Feminist Online devoted to Josephine Baker: Josephine Baker: a Century in the Spotlight.
    This is a long-standing site with lots of useful bits and pieces.
    Researched and managed by Terry Monaghan, who sadly passed away a number of years ago. This was a useful website devoted to the Savoy Ballroom.
  • Bobby White's Index of Basic Classic Clips.
    Just as it suggests - an basic index to classic clips.
  • The Internet Broadway Database
    A useful guide to stage shows and productions on Broadway.