Dancing Lives: Five Female Dancers from the Ballet d'Action to Merce Cunningham.

AuthorEisenstein, Dorothy
PositionBook review

Work Title: Dancing Lives: Five Female Dancers from the Ballet d'Action to Merce Cunningham

Work Author(s): Karen Eliot

University of Illinois Press

15 b/w photographs, 208 pages, Hardcover $32.95


ISBN: 9780252032509

Reviewer: Dorothy Eisenstein

"Exciting her spectators with her physical beauty and seductive playfulness as well as her great control and acumen, Baccelli danced with fleet, delicate steps in clearly etched patterns through space, her face always expressive and alive," Eliot writes.

Giovanna Baccelli, an eighteenth century ballerina, is one of five dancers Eliot discusses in this historical account, which emphasizes each dancer's personal and professional life and highlights the social, economic, and political issues affecting their careers. Eliot is a professor of dance at Ohio State University and former member of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. In addition to Baccelli, she profiles Adele Dumilatre (1821-1909), Tamara Karsavina (1885-1978), and Moira Shearer (1926-2006) who all achieved celebrity as ballet soloists. Eliot ends her account with Catherine Kerr (1948- ) who was a longtime member of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company.

Eliot describes how each dancer embodied the aesthetics of her era. Her narrative focuses on the technique, training, and performance attributes of these soloists while revealing their secondary status as interpretive artists. Adele Dumilatre epitomized the Romantic Ballet's notion of dance through her technical virtuosity and grace. Tamara Karsavina served as one of the most famous soloists of Diaghilev's legendary Ballet Russes. In spite of their dedication and adaptability to the demands of the choreography, however...

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