PERFORMING ARTS

Why Dance Matters

Yale Univ Jan. 2023. 280p. ISBN 9780300204520. $26. DANCE
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In the latest entry in Yale’s “Why X Matters” series, dance critic and teacher Aloff (Hippo in a Tutu: Dancing in Disney Animation) champions the cause of the elusive yet universal art of dancing. With a unique blend of personal experience and informed analysis, she guides readers on a journey through the many forms of dance, including storytelling, musical interpretation, rituals, and religious observance. She opens with an examination of Helen Levitt’s iconic 1940 photograph of two children dancing on an empty New York City street. That segues into recollections of her own early dance experience and a discussion of children’s roles in dance, especially in George Balanchine’s production of The Nutcracker. Other chapters look at “Walking and Dancing,” “Steps,” “Floatings,” and more. There are numerous references to seminal dance works and celebrated dancers and choreographers. Aloff’s writing throughout is informative and insightful, drawing connections and offering well-considered opinions based on careful study and observation.
VERDICT A thoughtful and engaging look at dance and its place in the human experience that will likely appeal to readers with an interest in dance, culture, and forms of human expression.
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