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5.0 out of 5 stars Before recorded history there was dance, February 21, 2010
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This review is from: New Dance: Writings on Modern Dance (Hardcover)
There were giants in the Earth in the old days and one of those giants has written this little gem of a book that will be of great interest to dancers. How fortunate that Doris Humphreys took the time to record for us her philosophy of modern dance and took the time to notate most of her modern dances. And how fortunate that Charles Humphries Woodford turned her notes and ideas into a book and how fortunate that Princeton Book Company published that book. Doris, of course, gives us her modern dance cannon that dance is basically a serious art form based on falls and recovery. That idea is new in dance, but not new in music or in human physiology. In music it is tension and release, crusis, meta crusis, and ana crucis. In physiology it is contraction, recoil, relaxation. In baseball it is hit, recoil, and relax. Such are the basic elements of human actions and dance is based on human values and experience. For instance, Doris tells us that dance phrases are based on human breathing patterns and rhymthms. The total outlook is summarized by her famous statement: "My dance is an art concerned with human values." So read this work if you wish to sharpen your critical eye and improve your dance. But, you know, if we are to understand the good, we need to talk about what is not so good. What's not so good is that some of the notes are too short and skimmpy (Corybantic 1948; Invention 1949; Night Spell 1951). The composer whose music is used for the dance is mentioned but the specific piece is not. Bela Bartok wrote a lot of good music. But what particular piece does Doris dance Corybantic to? We don't know. Even the much better notated Day on Earth 1947 which runs three pages only mentions that the music comes from Aaron Copland. And while I am being critical, I shall also complain that the short biography is too short. It runs a page a a quarter and fails to mention the the cause of her final illness and the arthritis that led to her early retirement.
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