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It is self-evident to choreographers, dancers and dance scholars that dances are works in their own right as much as literary and musical works are. However, from an American library perspective, this fact was not fully acknowledged until 20 years ago. Indeed, the historical mistreatment of dance works has evolved from their once total absence from subject taxonomies, to their being classified with works about recreation instead of among the “serious” arts, to their being subordinated to music. The situation greatly improved in 1994 with the publication by the Library of Congress (LC) of special cataloging rules that finally treat “choreographic works” as autonomous entities, which led to the creation of 18,000 uniform dance titles. Nevertheless, to some extent, LC’s instructions can seem Anglo-centric and dismissive of the choreographer’s creative role. Since 2012, libraries and other cataloging agencies involved in developing the first international cataloging standards (“Resource Description and Access”) have been reevaluating the descriptive treatment of “choreographic works” in order to take into account the relationships between choreographers and their works, while still acknowledging the collaborative aspect of dance. The latest developments in cataloging practices might have a drastic—and beneficial—impact on the way dance works are described and thereby discovered by library patrons in the near future. They offer the potential of transforming the dance library catalog into a danced library catalog.


Paper presented at the Joint Conference of the Congress on Research of Dance and the Society of Dance History Scholars, “Writing Dancing/Dancing Writing”, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA (14 Nov. 2014).

An Apple Keynote Presentation with illustrative examples accompanied this lecture. For a copy, contact the author at

A revised version of this paper was published as:

Dominique Bourassa, “Library Cataloging Reforms and Their Impact on Choreographic Works,” Dance Chronicle 38:2 (2015): 233-242.

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This Article is Open Access



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