From Publishers Weekly
Former Knopf and New Yorker
editor-in-chief Gottlieb offers a wonderfully idiosyncratic collection of dance writings in one massive yet cohesive tome organized into chapters on major choreographers (from Bournonville to Paul Taylor), dancers, teachers and miscellaneous subjects such as "Present at the Creation" (e.g., ballerina Alexandra Danilova on Balanchine's Apollo
). There's brilliant and incisive criticism, and artists in their own voices, such as winsome and witty ballerina Allegra Kent on her first performance with the New York City Ballet. There are critical looks at dancers, such as Harris Green's pointed take on Gelsey Kirkland as "The Judy Garland of Ballet." Then there are the ephemera: Fred Astaire opining on Ginger Rogers's dresses, Walt Disney's animated dances and recipes from Tanaquil LeClercq's The Ballet Cook Book.
Although Gottlieb admits that his collection is "unbalanced and uneven," the paucity of writing on black dancers and choreographers--three pages on Alvin Ailey's "crude but powerful style" and an obituary of hoofer Honi Coles--is egregious. Nonetheless, it's an important collection and a treasure chest for dance aficionados. (Nov. 4)
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*Starred Review* Formerly editor in chief of Knopf and the New Yorker, Gottlieb is a consummate bookman and anthologist par excellence. This is his third major compendium, following Reading Jazz (1996) and Reading Lyrics (2000), and the largest yet. Gottlieb is, in addition to all else, a dance critic and author of George Balanchine: The Ballet Maker (2004). Balanchine figures prominently here as one of the pantheon of dancers and choreographers Gottlieb organizes this capacious collection around, among them Frederick Ashton, Fred Astaire, Merce Cunningham, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Martha Graham, and Twyla Tharp. Seminal dance writers are also present, including Joan Acocella, Arlene Croce, and Edwin Denby. In terms of dance history, this extraordinary assemblage is a must-have. But this gathering is also guaranteed to light up the brain circuitry of any reader who loves superlative essays. While covering all the important subjects from multiple perspectives, Gottlieb has selected writings of exceptional energy and forthright expression, from Janet Flanner on Isadora Duncan to Lincoln Kirstein on bad ballet and Jill Johnston on Baryshnikov. Perhaps the sheer physicality and eroticism of dance inspires its commentators to write with unusual verve. Gottlieb’s great book of dance dances. --Donna Seaman