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posted on 06.06.09

Top Dance Writers

Reviewing dance is tough – not that writing in general isn’t tough. But you don’t have anything to refer to after you leave the theater or listen to or read, only your memory. Dance videos are notoriously inadequate. So I especially admire those that can convey a performance’s physicality and beauty, while also giving their analysis (without nasty asides). At the top of my list is Deborah Jowitt, who until recently was the chief dance critic for The Village Voice. Her articles on dance have also appeared in The New York Times, Dance Magazine, Ballet Review, and Dance Research Journal, as well as in catalogues and anthologies.

She has published two collections: Dance Beat (1977) and The Dance in Mind (1985). A third book, Time and the Dancing Image (William Morrow; paperback, University of California Press), won the de la Torre Bueno Prize for 1988. She also edited and wrote the introduction for Meredith Monk (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997) and the introductions for the revised and expanded edition of Jill Johnston's Marmalade Me and José Limón's An Unfinished Memoir (both from Wesleyan University Press). She has contributed essays to Reinventing Dance in the 1960s (ed. Sally Banes) and Of Another World: Dancing Between Dream and Reality (ed. Monna Dithmer). Her most recent book, Jerome Robbins: His Life, His Theater, His Dance, was published by Simon and Schuster in August, 2004.

I also liked Arlene Croce’s first books, Afterimages and Going to the Dance, but like many others, was horrified by her review in The New Yorker of Bill T. Jones Still Here (1994), without attending the performance, and could never again read her without the memory of her transparently prejudiced opinions.

Roslyn Sulcas is now writing the most graceful and discerning criticism in The New York Times, demonstrating a deep understanding and passion for both ballet and modern dance. She will publish a book on William Forsythe in 2010. Between her and Jowitt, both seasoned dance lover and neophyte can learn a lot.

Good introduction to contemporary dance: Fifty Contemporary Choreographers, Edited by Martha Bremser, with an introduction by Deborah Jowitt, Routledge

Covering today's most important modern, ballet, contemporary and post-modern choreographers in Europe and North America, this unique guide is a valuable quick reference for students and critics, dancers and general readers in love with dance.

Each entry includes a biographical section, a chronological list of works, a detailed bibliography and a critical essay. In entries on choreographers such as Richard Alston, Pina Bausch, Laurie Booth, Christopher Bruce, Jonathan Burrows, Michael Clarke, Merce Cunningham, Anna Theresa De Keersmaeker, Eiko and Koma, William Forsythe,Jiri Kylain, Mark Morris, Twyla Tharp and other leading figures, readers can easily locate each choreographer's style and influence within the development of contemporary theatre dance, and swiftly discern the essential facts in his or her career.


Photo:  Dancers of the Ballet National de Marseille perform in "Les Pas de Deux d'Herman Schmerman", choreographed by William Forsythe, during the Malta Arts Festival at the Royal Opera House Ruins in Valletta July 6, 2008


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Meredith Monk


Balanchine/New York City Ballet
Modern And Contemporary Dance



William Forsythe