From Publishers Weekly
Brown, a founding member of Merce Cunningham's dance company, began working on her memoir shortly after leaving the troupe in 1972, but it's proved worth the 30-year wait. Of course, the behind-the-scenes perspective on Cunningham's groundbreaking choreography is invaluable, but Brown's keen critical insights are enhanced by her account of Cunningham's temperamental difficulties in relating to and managing his fellow artists. She also discusses the role avant-garde composer John Cage played in the company's development, although it's the emotional roller-coaster of their friendship that proves most memorable. For many, the centerpiece of Brown's story might be found in several chapters devoted to a 1964 world tour, but there are wonderful moments sprinkled throughout, including the debut performance of Cage's landmark silent piece, 4'33"
, along with humorous vignettes featuring Robert Rauschenberg, Willem de Kooning and Rudolf Nureyev. Brown writes with great candor about the emotional costs of her artistic commitment, but she can occasionally be oblique; the dissolution of her marriage to open-form composer Earle Brown nearly gets lost in the shuffle of performances (and reactions to outraged critics, many recounted in detail). Her story will become an indispensable document for anyone curious about the mid-century revolution in American art. 40 pages of photos. (Mar. 21)
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*Starred Review* The dancing daughter of a dancer, Brown dreamed of becoming a writer. Instead she became a principal dancer in daring and provocative choreographer Merce Cunningham's pioneering dance company. For 20 mad, glorious, and exhausting years, Brown traveled the world, performing before hostile, baffled, and ecstatic audiences. Happily, Brown never lost her literary inclination. Writing with precision and poise, and drawing on her invaluable letters and journals, Brown presents a scintillating chronicle of the John Cage-Merce Cunningham dynamic. Deeply inspired by Cage's warmth, humor, and spirit and by the austere elegance of sphinxlike Cunningham's demanding choreography, Brown gained unique insights into their use of chance as a creative force and their superlative collaboration with artist Robert Rauschenberg. Candid, compelling, and possessed of a keen critical eye and ear, Brown tells fascinating tales of New York's wildly innovative mid-twentieth-century art world, details the endless struggle to keep the cash-poor company together, discloses her own sacrifices and triumphs, and assesses the profound influence of the Cage-Cunningham aesthetic. Cage and Cunningham's mission was to "change the way people look and listen," and that they did with courage, conviction, and grace. Donna SeamanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved