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Children's Nonfiction Dance

Learn to Speak Dance

A Guide to Creating, Performing, and Promoting Your Moves

by (author) Ann-Marie Williams

illustrated by Jeff Kulak

Owlkids Books Inc.
Initial publish date
Sep 2011
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2011
    List Price
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2011
    List Price

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Where to buy it

Out of print

This edition is not currently available in bookstores. Check your local library or search for used copies at Abebooks.

Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 9 to 13
  • Grade: 4 to 7


Watching a flashy music video or an episode of So You Think You Can Dance probably makes most people a little shy about their dancing skills, but we all know how to dance. After all, dance is just a mashup of everyday movement and imagination. And while a musician might learn how to play piano or guitar, a dancer's instrument is the human body. We just need to explore the unique, artistic voice inside that instrument — and Learn to Speak Dance is all about helping kids do just that! Drawing upon years of experience as a dancer and dance teacher, author Ann-Marie Williams exposes every aspect of the world of dance — from different dance styles around the world to tips on choreography, costume design, performance, staging, and even managing a potential career. She's also brought along the expert opinions of a number of other dancers, se designers, choreographers, and reality TV judges, and all of them share great tips and anecdotes throughout. But there's no need to get stage fright — Learn to Speak Dance isn't an audition, a lecture, or even a class. It's simply a revelation of just how far your own two feet can move you...if you let them

About the authors

ANN-MARIE WILLIAMS is the director of the Movement Lab, a Toronto dance school for kids. She holds an MA in Dance, a BFA in Theater-Dance, and is also a fully certified ballet teacher with the Royal Academy of Dance. She has over a decade of teaching experience in a variety of settings from university dance programs to parks and recreation classes, and is a frequent contributor to The Dance Current. She lives in Toronto.

Ann-Marie Williams' profile page

JEFF KULAK is an Edmonton-born, Montreal-based designer-illustrator. From his studio, a converted room in a former nunnery, he creates art for books, magazines, album covers, and event posters.

Jeff Kulak's profile page


  • Runner-up, Moonbeam Children's Book Award, Non-Fiction - Young Adult category, Bronze
  • Runner-up, Alcuin Society Book Design Competition, Reference Category

Editorial Reviews

Comprehensive, exhilarating and groovy.

Foreword Reviews

...a practical introduction to the field.


It will inspire and validate pre-adolescents who have an interest in dance, and it will certainly provide them a comprehensive overview of dance as a discipline and profession.

CM Magazine: Canadian Review of Materials, smart, and unflaggingly supportive.

Quill & Quire

A sparkling addition to performing-arts sections.

School Library Journal

This book gives some really solid tips from a pro dance teacher, and a good look at what it takes.

Shelf Candy Blog

Dancing is hip and happening, and together the author and illustrator have created an appealing book that will inspire and support kids and young teens who just want to get up and dance.

Canadian Children's Book News

Any teen with an interest in fashion will find much to like about this book.


The language is right - hip and cool without trying too hard...The book helps to make dance accessible rather than mysterious...It really was written in an encouraging tone.

Aspiring choreographers, musicians, stage managers and set designers will find start-up pointers...

Kirkus Reviews

Librarian Reviews

Learn To Speak Dance: a Guide to Creating, Performing, and Promoting Your Moves

Following on the successful Learn To Speak Music, Owlkids has published Learn To Speak Dance. This companion book takes us from making simple moves in the privacy of our home to putting on a show.

What makes people want to dance? And how do we get from twirling around in our bedroom to creating something that is actually a “dance”? The author, a dancer and dance teacher, writes in a friendly and chatty tone designed to encourage both the budding dancer and one who has already caught the dancing bug. She discusses the motivation behind the movement and the four elements that are needed for someone to be dancing — body plus space plus force plus time. Step by step she takes us from solo dancing to moving with a partner to taking a class to creating or joining a company. She does a good job of breaking down the different components of the dance — the various body parts, movements and different dance styles, as well as the more technical aspects of putting on a show. To successfully showcase your work, you’ll need to be not only a good dancer but also a choreographer, set and costume designer, techie, publicist and house manager. All of these functions are explained in simple and practical terms.

Jeff Kulak’s simple and fluid cartoon-style drawings capture the movement of the different styles and techniques. Boys and girls are equally represented; dancing is cool and there is never any suggestion that it is only for girls. His style is contemporary and hip, suggesting more the kind of dancing that happens in So You Think You Can Dance rather than Swan Lake. Still, the principles are the same no matter what style of dance you are pursuing. The key is in knowing how to get started, being disciplined, having a goal and understanding the process. Dancing is hip and happening, and together the author and illustrator have created an appealing book that will inspire and support kids and young teens who just want to get up and dance.

Source: The Canadian Children's Bookcentre. Winter 2012. Volume 35 No. 1.

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