Portrait Gallery CL

Agnes De Mille, Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) $19.95 (314p) ISBN 978-0-395-52809-9
A heroine of American dance, choreographer de Mille in her 12th book proves expert at telling tales of other legendary folk, famous or obscure, from her household cook (``she existed like a ghost, a very fat one, in the back room'') to ethereal English ballerina Alicia Markova (``a rebuke to everything gross in the world''). The volume is divided into four parts, ``Artists,'' ``Impresarios,'' ``The de Milles'' and ``Intimates,'' each full of delicious, sometimes ruthless observations. Especially good at reckoning with the destructive forces that can undo us, de Mille is a realist whose sentences roll with the pugnacious rhythms of particular truths: Isadora Duncan was an ``emotional commando''; ballet financier Marquis de Cuevas's bedroom had ``the air of a crypt made cozy with superstition.'' De Mille is also a wit willing to take on herself. She has an acute eye, an exceptional ear for language; she changed the course of American dance and musical theater and here performs the inestimable service of preserving their vital signs. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 08/01/1990
Release date: 08/01/1990
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