Ann Daly, assistant professor of dance history and criticism at the University of Texas at Austin. Daly applauds what she calis "a new generation" of dance historians who look at dance "not just as an isolated aesthetic event but as a fundamental cultural practice." She recommends Lynn Garafola's Diaghilev's Ballets Russes (Oxford University Press, 1989) and Cynthia Novack's Sharing the Dance: Contact Improvisation and American Culture (University of Wisconsin Press, 1990). "The Ballets Russes and the contact improvisationists were each a distinct social group, with complex ties to their larger culture. Garafola and Novack treat them as real people operating in a particular time and place, not as 'artists' who somehow live in a world apart."
Deborah Jowitt, dance critic for The Village Voice, professor of dance at New York University, choreographer and former dancer, author of Time and the Dancing Image (University of California Press, 1989). Jowitt echoes Daly's praise for the Garafola and Novack books. She also likes Tchaikovsky's Ballets: Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Nutcracker, by Roland John Wiley (Oxford University Press, 1991). "Wiley's analysis of the musical background of the choreography of the Tchaikovsky-Petipa ballets is fascinating," she says. "I find it refreshing to read a musicologist's view, rather than a dance historian's, because of the minute analysis it offers of how the music itself influences the choreography." And she calls Suzanne Shelton's Ruth St. Denis: A Biography of the Divine Dancer (University of Texas Press, 1990) "a model of biographical writing. Shelton's understanding of St. Denis's character and artistic temperament is wonderfull, as is her research into the times and turn-of-the-century ideas that produced her"
Mindy Aloff, writer on dance for The New Yorker, The New Republic, and other publications. A good dance book, Aloff says, gives her "new ideas of beauty, makes me feel differently." She says that Tap! The Greatest Tap Dance Stars and Their Stories, 1900-1955, by Rusty E. Frank (Morrow, 1990), fits the bill. "It's a collection of oral histories, but Frank hasn't picked the obvious people to interview. She's chosen oblique ways to get at the very famous tap dancers--Shirley Temple talking about what it was like to work with 'Bojangles' Bill Robinson; or Hermes Pan, Fred Astaire's assistant in the movies, on Astaire." Although it's five years old, Aloff calls Sight Lines (Knopf, 1987), a collection of Arlene Croce's essays on dance for The New Yorker, "the single most important recent book of criticism. Croce's frame of reference is enormous--she discusses dance in connection with popular music, with movies, with books. You get an incredibly rich sense of what it was like to be at these performances in New York City at a particular moment." Aloff also likes two recent books with a Latin flavor. The Language of Spanish Dance, by Matteo M. Vittucci with Carola Goya (University of Oklahoma Press, 1990), is "the best dance dictionary I've ever seen--I read it straight through from A to Z." Samba, by Alma Guillermoprieto (Random House, 1991), about samba schools in Rio, "is not narrowly a dance book; it's about how dance comes out of a larger human impulse."
Janet Soares, chair of the dance department at Barnard College, choreographer, former dancer with the Jose Limon Company, author of Louis Horst: Musician in a Dancer's World (Duke University Press, 1992). Soares says, "The most exciting thing going on is that now we have dancers writing, or others heavily involved in the profession who've written out their thoughts, as opposed to outsiders looking in." She praises two recent such books about the life of Martha Graham: Graham's autobiography, Blood Memory (Doubleday, 1991), and Martha: The Life and Work of Martha Graham, by dancer Agnes de Mille (Random House, 1991). "Neither is a scholarly, historical reading, and each offers a singular perspective. Graham is writing reflectively at the end of a long life and career, while de Mille is writing about growing up with Graham as a young co-dancer, an idol in the same field."
Sally Banes, chair of the dance program at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, author of Terpsichore in Sneakers: Post-Modern Dance (Wesleyan University Press, 1987) and Greenwich Village 1963: Avant-Garde Performance and the Effervescent Body (Duke University Press, 1993). Banes says she's interested in some current books "whose authors didn't come out of the dance field." She recommends two volumes on dance and anthropology: Robert Allen's Horrible Prettiness: Burlesque and American Culture (University of North Carolina Press, 1991) and Jane K. Cowan's Dance and the Body Politic in Northern Greece (Princeton University Press, 1990). "Allen is a professor of radio, television, and movies, and Cowan is an anthropologist. Their works are groundbreaking in situating dance as part of a social context."
Are there any great books you think we missed? Let us know.