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books and company What is Dance? Edited by Roger Copeland and Marshall Cohen. Oxford University Press, 560 pp., $25.00 (cloth); $12.95 (paper). A good question-to which this volume of sixty essays offers at least sixty viable answers. Here is a comprehensive, provocative, always entertaining anthology of literature on dance-dance, "the literature of the legs" in Gautier's eyes-from an extraordinary ensemble: historians, philosophers, anthropologists, structuralists, journalists. Each has sought, within one's professional sphere, the solar plexus of the very idea of the art of dance. Specifically: what distinguishes dance from other human movement, genre from style? To what extent is dance language, ethnic trait, uncontrollable sexual urge or response to music? The working out of primal spirits or the working out of spatial patterns? Although the collection is bounded by Western philosophies of the end of the last century and this one, it is nevertheless an invaluable consultant to all dancewatchers: they can at last observe the ephemeral art from a variety of sound theoretical viewpoints. The wealth of theory comes from both expected and unexpected sources: Noverre and Mallarm6, Wagner and Kleist, Bernard Shaw and Barthes, Isadora and Rainer, Croce and Kisselgoff. Often, thoughts approach aphorism-as when dance is "the mixture of flesh and spirit" (Val6ry),"the pure art of metamorphosis"(Socrates), "all that is left of the combined movements of the Greeks" (D6gas); and the dancer is "a machine for manufacturing beauty" (Andr6 Levinson), "the unhappy high priestess of our uncollective unconscious" (Jowitt on Graham). Dance theory, of all art theories, has taken far longer to gain a real foothold: for years its non-verbal medium made it suspicious to scholars as did its erotic connotations, the predominance of female performers. Probably the greatest hindrance has been the lack of a sound notation system for recording . Today, to a great extent, these beliefs, conditions have evolved, been solved or purged altogether. 115 Val6ry wrote in 1936: "Every epoch that has understood the human body ... has cultivated and revered the dance." With the emergence of such a distinguished anthology, our own epoch is taking the crucial steps beyond-to thinking, writing, and reading about it. Joyce Caruso Women in Theatre: Compassion and Hope. Karen Malpede. Drama Book Publishers, 304 pp., $19.95(cloth). Karen Malpede's new anthology is a useful and important collection of primary material by women of the theatre, much of which has been out of print for a long time. It includes diverse pieces, such as reminiscences by actresses Eva LaGallienne and Ellen Terry; critical and theoretical essays by Rosamond Gilder, Susan Glaspell, Lorraine Hansberry; diary excerpts by Martha Graham and Katherine Dunham, and accounts of recent work in feminist theatre by the Women's Experimental Theatre and others. While some excerpts, such as Emma Goldman's progressive reading of Strindberg , are disappointingly short, many of the writings are truly inspiring, sometimes visionary. Throughout the book, references by one writer to a previous one, for example Judith Malina's diary entries on Hallie Flanagan, demonstrate the encouragement and inspiration that have created an implicit network among women artists throughout the history of the theatre. Omissions, especially of contemporary artists such as Maria Irene Fornes and Megan Terry, give the book an unfortunate incompleteness. Malpede's short introductions to each piece place them in an informed backdrop. Her introduction to the book, however, is problematic. This lyrical and polemical essay celebrates the spirit and fortitude of women theatre artists and places them in a tradition that counters the male-dominated theatre world and creates, in its place, a new approach to theatre. Malpede offers a revision of mythology and the origins of theatre, in which women's active role is central. She does not provide full arguments for major claims, and thus, though her points may be true, her writing seems more evangelical than convincing. In thirteen pages, she takes on all of western culture and religion; her conclusions are not likely to convince anyone who does not already share an attitude and understanding of the pervasiveness of patriarchal structures. She states, for example, that "to alter the ethical and emotional basis of patriarchy, we have to replace the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1537-9477
Print ISSN
1520-281X
Pages
pp. 115-116
Launched on MUSE
2018-01-03
Open Access
No
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