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Agnes de Mille - Dance to the Piper

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I recently found a paperback copy of this on a second-hand bookstall. It was a really interesting read. (The section on London in the 1930s with Rambert was particularly interesting for me).

She has a very direct, pithy and pungent style. She tells her story up the early 1950s. Did she write any further about her life? Or are there any biographies that you would recommend ?

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Lynette, the two I have on my bookshelf are: "Speak to Me, Dance with Me", Popular Library paperback edition from 1973 (this is a collection of letters that cover the same time period as your book) and "Where the Wings Grow: a Memoir of Childhood". Thank you for reminding me of them - sounds like it's time to re-read! (There's another memoir from the 1950s called "And Promenade Home" that I haven't read.) I also have a book called "Martha: the Life and Work of Martha Graham" from 1992 that Ms. DeMille wrote, also very interesting with her signature "voice". I heard her speak at a ceremony in 1984 presented by the Americana Dance Theatre called "An Afternoon with Agnes DeMille, Reminiscences". This must have been after her stroke as I remember her seated when the curtain rose and I don't believe she stood at all. What a wonderful, singular personality.

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Agnes deMille was one of the most prolific dance writers in English. Like you, my introduction to her was through Dance with the Piper, which is a very personal history both of her development but also of an extremely important era in American dance. She wrote memoirs, biographies, histories, and commentary, she lectured on dance in academic and general audiences, she testified in Congress, she served on multiple committees in just about every arts organization that existed during her lifetime -- she was one of the most recognizable individuals in dance in the US. (and yes, she made dances as well!)

You can work your way through her NYPL holdings, or you can find Mindy Aloff's recent anthology of deMille's work, "Leaps in the Dark: Arts and the World." Either way, you'll find a wealth of discussion from a very smart and opinionated woman, who was a witness to a giant chunk of American dance history.

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"Dance to the Piper" is one of my favorite dance books. For another view I would recommend Carol Easton's biography of de Mille, "No Intermissions." It's not a great book and Easton is not nearly as fun to read, but it will give you another perspective on aspects of de Mille's life that are somewhat glossed over in her writings, such as her professional conflicts and her marriage (Walter was really kind of a jerk, apparently).

The biography of Martha Graham is well worth reading but highly opinionated in the de Mille manner. Definitely not the only book you should read on Graham.

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