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Dance Writings and Poetry Paperback – September 10, 1998

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Denby (1903-83), a major dance critic as well as a poet, wrote for Modern Music (1936-42), the New York Herald Tribune (1942-45), and many dance magazines. In his writings, he 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. His literary talents also found an outlet in the writing of librettos and poetry. Although Denby's writings have been compiled before, most notably in Dancers, Buildings, and People in the Street (1965), this volume is the only one currently in print. Denby's significant voice should be added to all collections in which he is not already represented.AJoan Stahl, National Museum of American Art, Washington, DC
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.


...the selection of dance pieces is very good, and for anyone who has not yet read Denby, this book is a godsend. -- The New York Times Book Review, Rick Whitaker

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (September 10, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300069855
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300069853
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,689,386 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Bill Berkson on October 24, 1998
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Don't be buffaloed by Times reviewer: Denby's poems are American treasures, not "quaint" in any way; they are densely wrought, large scale beyond their compact sonnet formats, piquant. & yes, as critic, Denby is among the topmost immortals -- meaning he ranks with Diderot, Shaw, Baudelaire. Poems & dance writings both put forth companionable, no-nonsense, strict, generous urbane attitude: "Dance criticism has two different aspects: one is being made drunk for a second by seeing something happen; the other is expressing lucidly what you saw when you were drunk." And: "Actual events are obscure/ Though the observers appear clear."
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 9, 1999
Format: Paperback
Denby's Vocabulary
Frank O'Hara wrote of dancewriter Edwin Denby in his poem 'Edwin's Hand', that he was 'Easy to love, but/difficult to please,he/walks densely as a child/in the midst of spectacular/needs to understand.' A glimpse of Denby the man and the myth peek through in a new book of his prose DANCE WRITINGS AND POETRY, Edited by Robert Cornfield, (Yale University Press, $40 hard, $18 soft). Cornfield notes in an introductory short-bio, that Denby had a background in art history, music, gymnastics, theater and began his career in the 20s as a dancer. This is the only book now in print of Denby's influencial dance articles. For almost thiry years Denby's eye was deftly focused on the evolution of dance in this century.
Denby's ability as a dance interpreter has a dramatic authority, if dated abstractness. His encylopedic knowledge of the history and connotations of every type of dance is always evident in his essays. This spectrum, as presented in the uneven 'Dance Writings', builds as a symposia on the world of dance, invovling complete aspects of academic, physical and aesthetic interrogation. And, to credit his anti-eliteism, his work, even at it most studied, has a conversational lightness. It is obvious that his evaluative powers were distinctive and unique. But you cannot help but wonder why he doesn't employ the economy in his writing that he would expect on the dance stage. Or red flag his own indulgences of style, something that he was obviously fond of doing when critiquing other artists.
Denby's mission was to define the terms of dancewriting and make it vital to the art form. To achieve "disentangling the pretensions of a ballet from it achievements." as he put in the essay 'Dance Criticism'.
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