Dance Writings and Poetry


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Edwin Denby; Edited by Robert Cornfield

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Edwin Denby, who died in 1983, was the most important and influential American dance critic of this century. His reviews and essays, which he wrote for almost thirty years, were possessed of a voice, vision, and passion as compelling and inspiring as his subject. He was also a poet of distinction—a friend to Frank O'Hara, James Schuyler, and John Ashbery. This book presents a sampling of his reviews, essays, and poems, an exemplary collection that exhibits the elegance, lucidity, and timelessness of Denby's writings.

The volume includes Denby's reactions to choreography ranging from Martha Graham to George Balanchine to the Rockettes, as well as his reflections on such general topics as dance in film, dance criticism, and meaning in dance.Denby`s writings are presented chronologically, and they not only provide a picture of how his dance theories and reviewing methods evolved but also give an informal history of dance in New York from the late 1930s to the early 1960s. The book—the only collection of Denby's writings currently in print—is an essential resource for students and lovers of dance.

“A primary chronicle and brilliant accounting of a seminal period in US dance history. Not merely evaluation, Denby’s reviews alter one’s worldview because they are penetrating considerations of the aesthetic expressiveness of performing, of physical type, of correctness in ballet, of choreography, and of bodily sensibility. His tone is that of a teacher, yet his writing is never pedagogical.”—Choice

"In his writings [Denby] passionately reflected on the art form, observing the emergence and development of many seminal figures, including George Balanchine, Martha Graham, Leonide Massine, and Frederick Ashton. When read chronologically, his observations on specific performances, dance criticism, and the meaning of dance amount to the creation of a dance aesthetic that he shared with readers for more than 30 years. . . . Denby’s significant voice should be added to all collections in which he is not already represented."—Library Journal

"Denby writes of dance action, of dance ideas, and of dance imagination. And he writes of them from various perspectives-now an observer’s, now a practitioner’s, now as current event, now as historic memory. His work is the model for dance criticism in English."—Mindy Aloff

"With other critics you can agree or disagree. With Denby you undergo a form of conversion. You have eyes, new ears, and a sensibility that lets you respond to meanings you hadn’t dreamed were there." —Arlene Croce

“Denby was a great critic, and you don’t have to know anything about ballet to enjoy reading him… ‘Dance Writings and Poetry’ contains some of his best work…the selection of dance pieces is very good, and for anyone who has not yet read Denby, this book is a godsend.”—Rick Whitaker, New York Times Book Review

“Edwin Denby’s dance writings and poetry . . . are all the more precious because in none of today’s newspapers does one find daily reviews of such acuity and sweetness.”—Dance Magazine
ISBN: 9780300076172
Publication Date: September 10, 1998
336 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/4