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Reading Dance: A Gathering of Memoirs, Reportage, Criticism, Profiles, Interviews, and Some Uncategorizable Extrasby Robert Gottlieb
Synopses & Reviews
Robert Gottliebs immense sampling of the dance literature-by far the largest such project ever attempted-is both inclusive, to the extent that inclusivity is possible when dealing with so vast a field, and personal: the result of decades of reading.
It limits itself of material within the experience of todays general readers, avoiding, for instance, academic historical writing and treatises on technique, its earliest subjects are those nineteenth-century works and choreographers that still resonate with dance lovers today: Giselle, The Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake; Bournonville and Petipa. And, as Gottlieb writes in his introduction, “The twentieth century focuses to a large extent on the achievements and personalities that dominated it-from Pavlova and Nijinsky and Diaghilev to Isadora Duncan and Martha Graham, from Ashton and Balanchine and Robbins to Merce Cunningham and Paul Taylor and Twyla Tharp, from Fonteyn and Farrell and Gelsey Kirkland (“the Judy Garland of Ballet”) to Nureyev and Baryshnikov and Astaire-as well as the critical and reportorial voices, past and present, that carry the most conviction.”
In structuring his anthology, Gottlieb explains, he has “tried to help the reader along by arranging its two hundred-plus entries into a coherent groups.” Apart from the sections on major personalities and important critics, there are sections devoted to interviews (Tamara Toumanova, Antoinette Sibley, Mark Morris); profiles (Lincoln Kirstein, Bob Fosse, Olga Spessivtseva); teachers; accounts of the birth of important works from Petrouchka to Apollo to Push Comes to Shove; and the movies (from Arlene Croce and Alastair Macauley on Fred Astaire to director Michael Powell on the making of The Red Shoes). Here are the voices of Cecil Beaton and Irene Castle, Ninette de Valois and Bronislava Nijinska, Maya Plisetskaya and Allegra Kent, Serge Lifar and José Limón, Alicia Markova and Natalia Makarova, Ruth St. Denis and Michel Fokine, Susan Sontag and Jean Renoir. Plus a group of obscure, even eccentric extras, including an account of Pavlova going shopping in London and recipes from Tanaquil LeClerqs cookbook.”
With its huge range of content accompanied by the anthologists incisive running commentary, Reading Dance will be a source of pleasure and instruction for anyone who loves dance.
"Former Knopf and New Yorker editor-in-chief Gottlieb offers a wonderfully idiosyncratic collection of dance writings in one massive yet cohesive tome organized into chapters on major choreographers (from Bournonville to Paul Taylor), dancers, teachers and miscellaneous subjects such as 'Present at the Creation' (e.g., ballerina Alexandra Danilova on Balanchine's Apollo). There's brilliant and incisive criticism, and artists in their own voices, such as winsome and witty ballerina Allegra Kent on her first performance with the New York City Ballet. There are critical looks at dancers, such as Harris Green's pointed take on Gelsey Kirkland as 'The Judy Garland of Ballet.' Then there are the ephemera: Fred Astaire opining on Ginger Rogers's dresses, Walt Disney's animated dances and recipes from Tanaquil LeClercq's The Ballet Cook Book. Although Gottlieb admits that his collection is 'unbalanced and uneven,' the paucity of writing on black dancers and choreographers — three pages on Alvin Ailey's 'crude but powerful style' and an obituary of hoofer Honi Coles — is egregious. Nonetheless, it's an important collection and a treasure chest for dance aficionados." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
An essential collection of writings on dance gathered and annotated by the author of "Reading Jazz," this book is a must-have for any dance lover and a celebration of dance's history, innovation, diversity, and beauty.
About the Author
Robert Gottlieb has been editor in chief of Simon & Schuster, Alfred A. Knopf, and The New Yorker. He has edited books by such dance luminaries as Margot Fonteyn, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Natalia Makarova, and Lincoln Kirstein. He served for many years on the board of directors of New York City Ballet, working closely with Kirstein and Balanchine, and is the author of George Balanchine: The Ballet Maker. He has been for a decade the dance critic of the New York Observer, and writes frequently for The New York Review of Books and The New Yorker. His previously anthology, Reading Jazz, was acclaimed as a unique contribution to the jazz literature, and his Reading Lyrics (edited with Robert Kimball) has become a treasured resource for lovers of American popular song.
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