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Cover for Reading Dancing

Reading Dancing

Bodies and Subjects in Contemporary American Dance

Susan Leigh Foster


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Winner of the Dance Perspectives Foundation de la Torre Bueno Prize

Recent approaches to dance composition, seen in the works of Merce Cunningham and the Judson Church performances of the early 1960s, suggest the possibility for a new theory of choreographic meaning. Borrowing from contemporary semiotics and post-structuralist criticism, Reading Dancing outlines four distinct models for representation in dance which are illustrated, first, through an analysis of the works of contemporary choreographers Deborah Hay, George Balanchine, Martha Graham, and Merce Cunningham, and then through reference to historical examples beginning with court ballets of the Renaissance. The comparison of these four approaches to representation affirms the unparalleled diversity of choreographic methods in American dance, and also suggests a critical perspective from which to reflect on dance making and viewing. 

Praise For Reading Dancing: Bodies and Subjects in Contemporary American Dance

"Susan Foster is a new breed of dancer and choreographer."
— New York Times

"Foster proposes a context from which the reader might make, see, or write about dance."

"No other dance book had posited an alternative aesthetic and historical framework beyond its own disciplinary content. In advance of the turn to the body in social theory, dance therefore became a major contributor to the rethinking of history advanced by new historicists, and an art form that could be "read" within the context of history and politics. . . . Although dance studies is a growing field for undergraduate studies, its critical status depends on texts such as Reading Dancing that can be debated more widely."
— Times Higher Education

University of California Press, 9780520063334, 336pp.

Publication Date: April 22, 1988