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Dancing lives : five female dancers from the Ballet d'Action to Merce Cunningham /

Main Author: Eliot, Karen, 1957-
Format: Book
Language: English
Published: Urbana : University of Illinois Press, 2007
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Review by Choice Review

Drawing on significant library research and on paintings, photographs, poems, videotapes, and interviews, Eliot (Ohio State Univ.; former member, Merce Cunningham Dance Company) offers portraits of Giovanna Baccelli, Adele Dumilatre, Tamara Karsavina, Moira Shearer, and Catherine Kerr. In looking at these five dancers, Eliot describes an arc regarding female dancing in the Western theatrical context from the 1700s through the early 21st century. Situating each woman and her dance career within a specific cultural context, the author investigates economic, political, and social factors impacting each dancer's development, life as a professional, and legacy. Looking to related work--Rethinking the Sylph: New Perspectives on the Romantic Ballet, ed. by Lynn Garafola (CH, Jul'98, 35-6158) and Sally Banes's outstanding Dancing Women: Female Bodies on Stage (CH, Nov'98, 36-1503)--the author emphasizes the kinesthetic experiences of her subjects and their centrality to the dance-making process of various choreographers. Her account links the five performers' experiences by exploring the actual physical work (the embodied practice) of each woman's dancing. This accessible resource offers less experienced scholars of dance easy entry into studying dance as cultural history. Summing Up: Recommended. Undergraduates through faculty. S. E. Friedler Swarthmore College

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Library Journal Review

A former member of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, Eliot (dance, Ohio State Univ.) here focuses on "working dancers whose careers, in important ways, represent the major issues in the dance of their times." The featured dancers are four ballerinas-Giovanna Bacelli (Italian, c. 1753-1801), Adele Dumilttre (French, 1821-1909), Tamara Karsavina (Russian, 1885-1978), and Moira Shearer (Scottish, 1926-2006)-and one modern dancer, Catherine Kerr (American, b. 1948). The careers of these women-of varying educational and class backgrounds and personal lives-represent a historical cross section of dance performance, training, and technique. Eliot recognizes that dance history lacks an acknowledgment of the role of workaday dancers, and she attempts to fill in the gaps. Because the working lives of dancers remain largely undocumented, Eliot makes many "imaginative leaps" that incorporate her interpretations of poetry, painting, and sculpture to cobble together a meaningful narrative. She has enriched our understanding of dance history by addressing this challenging topic, but her frequent reliance on guesswork is a weakness. Recommended for large public and university libraries.-Joan Stahl, Univ. of Maryland Lib., College Park (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.