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Next Week, Swan Lake R E F L E C T I O N S O N D A N C E A N D D A N C E S Maya Plisetskaya as Odette in Swan Lake. Photo by Vladimir Bliokh. Selma Jeanne Cohen W E S L E Y A N U N I V E R S I T Y P R E S S Middletown, Connecticut R E F L E C T I O N S O N D A N C E A N D D A N C E S Next Week, Swan Lake Published by WESLEYAN UNIVERSITY PRESS Middletown, CT 06459 Copyright © 1982 by SelmaJeanne Cohen All rights reserved Printed in the United States of America 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 Lines from "Among School Children": Reprinted withpermission of Macmillan PublishingCo., Inc.,from Collected Poems by William ButlerYeats. Copyright © 1928 by Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc.,renewed 1956 by Bertha GeorgieYeats. Lines from "Michael Robartcs and the Dancer": Reprinted with permission of Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., from Collected Poems by William Butler Yeats. Copyright © 1924 by Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., renewed 1952 by Bertha CeorgieYeats. Lines from "TheDouble Vision of Michael Robartes" and "The Wild Swans at Coole": Reprinted with permission of Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., from Collected Poems by William ButlerYeats. Copyright © 1919 by Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc.,renewed 1947 by Bertha GeorgieYeats. Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data Cohen, Selma Jeanne, 1920Next week, Swan Lake. Bibliography: p. Includes index. i. Dancing—Addresses, essays, lectures. 2. Dancing — Philosophy — Addresses, essays, lectures. I. Title. GV 1599.C64 793-3 82-2614AACR2 ISBN O-8I95-6I IO-X This book is dedicated to the memory of BILL B U E N O This page intentionally left blank Preface HE LATE Harold Rosenberg once said of the visual arts that "in dealing with new things there is a question that precedes that of good or bad. I refer to the question 'What is it?'—the question of identity." I agree with this, but—perhaps because I am a historian—I would like to see it extended to apply to the old as well as to the new. Granting that the major dance innovators of recent times have met with more than their share of intolerant critics, we have also seen traditional choreography subjected to some equally prejudiced notices. Both extremes, it seems to me, stern from thinking that all dance can be perceived in the same way, that standards of right and wrong are identical for all dances, even when their utterly distinctive styles should warn the observer that similarly distinctive criteria may be in order. Because such a straitjacket approach tends to lead to the dismissal of whatever T viii / Preface does not fit the predetermined formula, it closes the eyes to many delights. What a pity! Categories can be useful when they provide a context for viewing , but they can be dangerous when they tempt us into exaggerated generalizations. I do not believe that all contemporary western dance can be divided into two parts: ballet and modern. I struggled with this for some years, demonstrating the problem to my students by asking, "Where do we put Twyla Tharp?" Now the forthcoming internationalencyclopedia of dance will put our anxieties to rest; she goes under "T." Today we are confronted not only with a fantastic variety of annual creations but also—thanks to the more extensive use of notation and film—with a growing repertory of works from the past. We frequently now refer to the emergence of the versatile dancer—the one who can perform in works by both Marius Petipa and Doris Humphrey with appropriate feeling and attack for each. We might also consider the desirability of cultivating the versatile audience, one that will adjust its sights to the work at hand, not wishing always that it were either more comfortably familiar or more provocatively avant-garde, but welcoming each opportunity to challenge the perception and enrich the sensibility. Judgment can come later. This book is concerned with questions of identity: the identity of particular works, of genres, of dance itself. Swan Lake is only an illustration, though it happens to be an especially convenient one as it exemplifies so many of the problems—historic, dramatic, stylistic, personal—that make this art so challenging. I will concentrate on western theatrical concert dance, not because I feel that other kinds are less valid or less interesting, but because I find the...


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