Agnes de Mille: Dancing Off the Earth

Beverly Gherman, Author
Beverly Gherman, Author Atheneum Books $13.95 (138p) ISBN 978-0-689-31441-4
Reviewed on: 05/01/1990
Release date: 05/01/1990
The life of American dancer and choreographer de Mille has all the makings of a heroine's saga, and Gherman ( Georgia O'Keeffe ) does not often let her subject get away. In fact, her decision to frame de Mille, an often angry artistic rebel, in the terms of conventional wisdom (``Agnes was in touch with all her senses''; ``deep within her, she knew she . . . wanted to become a dancer'') will strike some readers as unsatisfying. But the facts of a remarkable woman's accomplishments are presented clearly: her stubborn insistence on pursuing dance, considered unrespectable by her family; slow progress with an imperfectly proportioned body and ideas deemed too serious for commercial success; and the popularity of her choreography in Rodeo (1942), Oklahoma! (1943) and other works. Gherman reviews the milestones of de Mille's career, tells of her illnesses since 1975 and discusses her contributions to dance in nontechnical language; more background, however, would have been helpful. Now and then, stylistic infelicities intrude (de Mille ``lived sparsely'' at a time when money was short, and composer Richard Rodgers had ``dark black eyes''), but otherwise the biography is written crisply and sympathetically. Ages 9-up. (Apr.)
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