Dance to the Piper by Agnes De Mille
(New York Review Classics)

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Synopsis

Born into a family of successful playwrights and producers, Agnes de Mille was determined to be an actress. Then one day she witnessed the Russian ballet dancer Anna Pavlova, and her life was altered forever. Hypnotized by Pavlova’s beauty, in that moment de Mille dedicated herself to dance. Her memoir records with lighthearted humor and wisdom not only the difficulties she faced—the resistance of her parents, the sacrifices of her training—but also the frontier atmosphere of early Hollywood and New York and London during the Depression. “This is the story of an American dancer,” writes de Mille, “a spoiled egocentric wealthy girl, who learned with difficulty to become a worker, to set and meet standards, to brace a Victorian sensibility to contemporary roughhousing, and who, with happy good fortune, participated by the side of great colleagues in a renaissance of the most ancient and magical of all the arts.”

 

About Agnes De Mille

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Agnes de Mille (1905–1993) was born in New York City, the daughter of the writer and director William C. de Mille, and the niece of the well-known film producer-director Cecil B. DeMille. Raised in New York and California, she attended the University of California, Los Angeles, and trained to become a dancer, studying in New York and London and touring with companies in the United States and Europe. In 1942 de Mille had her first great success as a choreographer with Rodeo. She went on to choreograph celebrated musicals such as Oklahoma! and Carousel, and the award-winning Brigadoon and Kwamina, fusing modern and classical dance techniques to create her own innovative style. She also wrote widely about her work as a dancer, the early years in Hollywood, and childhood summers spent at the family estate in New York. Despite a stroke in 1975 that led to partial paralysis, de Mille continued to work, choreographing dances for American Ballet Theatre and other companies, as well as writing and lecturing. In 1986 she was awarded the National Medal of Arts for her lifetime achievement in the theater.Joan Acocella is a staff writer for The New Yorker. She is the author of Mark Morris; Creating Hysteria: Women and Multiple Personality Disorder; Willa Cather and the Politics of Criticism; and Twenty-eight Artists and Two Saints. She also edited the unexpurgated Diary of Vaslav Nijinsky.
 
Published November 24, 2015 by NYRB Classics. 368 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Humor & Entertainment, Arts & Photography. Non-fiction
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