2nd Edition

A Choreographer's Handbook

By Jonathan Burrows Copyright 2025
    246 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    246 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    On choreography: ‘Choreography is a negotiation with the patterns your body is thinking’

    On rules: ‘Try breaking the rules on a need to break the rules basis’

    The updated and revised edition of A Choreographer’s Handbook invites the reader to investigate how and why to make a dance performance. In an inspiring and unusually empowering sequence of stories, questions, ideas and paradoxes, internationally renowned choreographer, teacher and writer Jonathan Burrows explains how it’s possible to navigate a course through this complex process.

    It is a stunning reflection on a personal practice and professional journey, and draws upon many years of workshop discussions, led by Burrows.

    Burrows’ open and honest prose gives the reader access to a range of principles, exercises, meditations and ideas on choreography that allow artists and dance-makers to find their own aesthetic process.

    It is a book for anyone interested in making performance, at whatever level and in whichever style.

    Preface, 2nd edition    

    Dancing / Principles  






    Improvisation / Cut and paste / Choreography            


    Exploration / Risk      

    Breaking the rules 

    Subject / Inspiration / Stealing / Familiar movement / Choreography / Referencing other sources  

    Research / How and what? / Dramaturgy / Theory / Curiosity

    Contract / Performance space


    Abstract dance

    Interview / Unfinished business / Questions / Principles                               

    Financial limitations / Studios / Funding applications

    Collaboration / Audience      

    Preparation / Meetings / Rehearsal schedule / Heaviness                   

    Originality / Ecology / Paradox           

    Technique / Parrot on your shoulder / Authenticity /
    Dancing / Style / Fiddling       



    Daily practice

    Hoarding / Beginnings             


    Keeping it going / Pacing

    Change / Dub reggae / Simple material / Desperation

    Predictable and unpredictable / Expectation

    Stillness and silence    

    Minimal and maximal

    Solos, duos, trios, quartets                   

    Many bodies / States    

    Parallel Voices

    Performance / Principles       

    Distracting the self / Paradox / Choreography / Performance / Electric guitars

    Does it work? / Showings / Mentoring            

    Narrative / Ballet / Continuity           

    Continuity / Material / Make six things / Choreography / Flow


    Relation / Time / Rhythm        




    Scores / Studios / Translation / Sequencing / Improvisation  

    Chance / Empty hands / Gamut of movements / Limitations / Laborious
    work / Philosophy                    

    Audience / Facing the front / Facing each other / Confrontation / Humour / Failure              

    Place or space?


    Hierarchies / Dancer or choreographer? / In it or out of it? / Who owns what?       

    The marketplace / Earning a living / Administrating the work / Commercial work / Commissions / Academia      

    Music / Collaboration / Silence           


    Lighting / Technicians / Collaboration / Costumes / Set
    design / Nudity          

    Filming / History / Collaboration / Mirrors / Human-scale 


    How can I simplify all of this?            

    Forget all this


    Jonathan Burrows is a choreographer, teacher and writer, whose work has been invited widely internationally. He is best known for an ongoing body of work with the composer Matteo Fargion, with whom he has collaborated for over 30 years. He is the author of A Choreographer’s Handbook (Routledge 2010) and Writing Dance (2022) and is currently Associate Professor at the Centre for Dance Research, Coventry University, UK.

    Praise for the first edition

    'It proposes clear, but simultaneously cryptic advices applicable to a broad church of performance and dance making-dilemas. Well worth ordering' – Tim Etchells, Artistic Director of Forced Entertainment

    'The book covers thematic topics such as 'Collaboration', 'Material' and 'Mentoring' in playful ways, making bold statements but also cheekily suggesting that the opposite may also be true. It is a thought-provoking read, but also a useful manual on approaching performance for teachers, students and practitioners, that attempts to go beneath the layers of performing and making performance works.' – Emma Meehan, Dance Notes