TTHE ROYAL BALLET: The First Fifty Years, by Alexander Bland with a foreword by Dame Ninette de Valois (Doubleday, $35). Anyone who has spent an evening glued to his seat, enchanted by the talent of Anthony Dowell or the charms of Frederic Ashton's "A Month in the Country," owes an enormous debt to a young exile from Diaghilev's Ballets Russes named Ninette de Valois. It was she who 50 years ago resolved to establish a national dance company in England, who had the chutzpah to find the right people to get it started and the savvy to nourish it. Her story forms an important part of this account of "The Royal." With intelligence and formidable scholarship, Alexander Bland, for many years dance critic of the London Observer, tells how the Royal Ballet came to be and how it has developed and changed under each of its four directors.

THE HISTORY OF DANCE, by Mary Clarke and Clement Crisp (Crown, $35). This is a lavishly illustrated ballet history that is surprisingly detailed considering its range. From religious rites to music halls, dance takes many forms, nearly all of which the authors explore (Clarke has a particular interest in ballroom dancing), though all of them seem to spring from the same element of the human spirit.

THE WORLD'S GREAT BALLETS: La Fille Mal Gard,ee to Davidsbundlertanze, by John Gruen (Abrams, $40). Sumptuous is the word for this beautifully printed catalogue of 62 ballets featuring on nearly every other page a color photograph of one of today's ballet stars dancing a lead role. John Gruen, a critic of art and music as well as dance, writes with authority, grace and clarity about probably the most sensual of the art forms. Although Gruen leaves out many of the technical choreographic details of these dances, he has a strong sense of narrative and is at his best describing story ballets like La Sylphide.

100 LESSONS IN CLASSICAL BALLET, by Vera S. Kostrovitskaya translated by Oleg Briansky (Doubleday, $17.95). One of the best insights into the Russian way of dancing is through the Russian way of training dancers. Vera Kostrovitskaya details the lessons taught at Leningrad's Vaganova Choreographic Institute. The curriculum, which begins with barre exercises suitable for 8-year-olds, covers a course of eight years. Copiously illustrated with pictures of Russian boys and girls in class.