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"Dance in America" anthology


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A review of Mindy Aloff's recent "Dance in America" anthology by Sandi Kurtz for Seattle Dances. I hadn't heard about this, looks interesting.

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At just over 650 pages, it’s hard to complain about what might be missing from “Dance in America,” but it would have been nice to see something substantial from John Martin, who was the critic for the New York Times during the early days of American modern dance. (The NYT still holds copyright for that material). Likewise it would be wonderful to read more from the back issues of Dance Magazine, which made a significant effort to cover dance outside of New York, especially during the burgeoning of the dance boom in the 1970s. And as someone who grew up on the west coast, it was frustrating not to see that part of the dance world represented.    

I'd be curious to see how much overlap there is with Gottlieb's "Reading Dance." Nice pic of Fred and Ginger dancing the "Waltz in Swing Time."

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"Here are the most acclaimed dance critics, including Edwin Denby, Joan Acocella, Lincoln Kirstein, Jill Johnston, and Clive Barnes. . . "

I wish that Croce and Kisselgoff were considered among the "most acclaimed." I wonder if there were copyright/permission issues with them, too, along with John Martin.

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2 minutes ago, dirac said:

Croce's there, I think.

The publisher's web site has a complete list: https://www.loa.org/books/591-dance-in-america-a-readers-anthology

Croce has three pieces. Kisselgoff has just one, an introduction to a book, not one of her reviews. The blurb on the Amazon site that I quoted was apparently provided by the publisher. The same language appears on the publisher's page: https://www.loa.org/books/591-dance-in-america-a-readers-anthology

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I'm glad to know about this book, too, and "representing" Kisselgoff by a book introduction rather than a review speaks well of Aloff's book. Kisselgoff's career on the New York Times pretty well coincided with the years I watched ballet most intensively, especially in New York, but comparing what she wrote with what I saw, as I did with everybody, I never learned much from her reviews, and soon gave up reading them. 

Surprising for a critic in the arts, a field where where style is important, her writing lacked style - compared to the direct "All The News That's Fit to Print" clarity and directness of the news reporting, to say nothing of the Times's sports writers - and I noticed pretty soon after her promotion to chief critic after Barnes left, she seemed musically unaware too.  Before her promotion, though, and after her retirement, she contributed some  historical background for ballets on view, and I think that's where her real interest and ability lay.

It'll be interesting to see what Aloff has selected from Croce, already much published in her own collections; Croce I personally rank with Edwin Denby and Alastair Macaulay as writers who write so well they help me to get more out of watching ballets they haven't even written about specifically, like good tutors do.  (Excuse me if I don't plow through the contents pages of those collections right now to see if Aloff's selections are there.  I don't recognize the titles, though, except for Denby's "Against Meaning in Ballet.")

Thanks for the good news, dirac.

Edited by Jack Reed
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Suzanne Farrell wrote Notes on the Ballet while affiliated with the Kennedy Center.  Farrell's writings [on Balanchine works, Ballet Across America, etc] are not available on the new KC website.  Is there any other source for Notes? 

 

 

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They are included in a limited edition hard-cover book, The Suzanne Farrell Ballet - A Celebration, published by the Kennedy Center in 2017, along with short essays by others, a list of the dancers' names, and pictures of some of the performances.  

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Looks like a wonderful anthology. SK notes that it is arranged alphabetically by author rather than chronologically, so it's less than a trudge through a "progress" and as a result there are many accidental and happy juxtaposition of texts. Yes, maybe John Martin is missing, perhaps one of his light and clever reviews alongside his true believer Agon review would have been the thing. Also I'd love to see Elliott Carter's keen observations on Balanchine's work in the early thirties kept in print somewhere.

Am intrigued in Dance in America by the Paul Taylor's Black Mountain, Hell's Kitchen and Broadway, Marcia B. Siegel on Cunningham, and Claudia Roth Pierpont on Balanchine's Temperaments.  The piece I read on Amazon "look inside" of Whitney Balliett, once the New Yorker's jazz critic, on Baby Laurence seemed to convey both the immediacy of the inner detail of Laurence's dancing as well as its overall effect –

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He was a strange little man. His arms and legs were pipes, his face was scarred, and he had eye. Orphaned at 13 and later hemmed in by drugs and alcohol and financial troubles, he tended to be devious and self-pitying. Yet his dancing belied all that. In many ways, he was more a drummer than a dancer. He did little with the top half of his torso; holding his head upright, he either let his arms flap at his sides or crooked them as if he were a begging dog. But his legs and feet were speed and thunder and surprise. Unlike many tap diners, who rely on certain changeless patterns, Laurence constantly improvised. His sound was not the serene clickety-tick-tick of Bill Robinson or Chuck Green; it was a succession of explosions, machine-gun rattles, and jarring thumps. There were no frills to his dancing ...

 

 

Edited by Quiggin
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Very glad to raise the profile of this book -- while I loved revisiting familiar authors, I was most tickled by the people I'd never read. 

I agree, though, that there should be a collection of Kisselgoff's work for the NYT, alongside colleagues like Jack Anderson.  They were writing during the dance boom of the 1970s and beyond -- their work is a fantastic record of an incredibly fecund time in American dance.  Here's hoping that someone will take that project on!

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Very glad to raise the profile of this book -- while I loved revisiting familiar authors, I was most tickled by the people I'd never read. 

I initially assumed the book was new, but I see it's been out for some time, so thanks very much for the review.

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