Doris Humphrey didn't have the flamboyance or the physical endurance of her contemporary, Martha Graham, and all that most...

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DORIS HUMPHREY: An Artist First

Doris Humphrey didn't have the flamboyance or the physical endurance of her contemporary, Martha Graham, and all that most of us know about her contribution to modern dance is that it was made in some journeyman fashion. A good book about her is overdue for she was a major figure on several scores and a personality not to be dismissed. Her own memoir--from childhood to her 1928 break with Denisha--was written on her deathbed after years of paralyzing illness, but what a robust thing it is. There is a kind of sleazy plenitude in her memories of home, an actors' hotel circa 1900; and her early career is a perfect backstage story (insolvent parents, cracks at vaudeville, slipping the clutches of Oak Park to tour the Orient with Miss Ruth). In retrospect she is amused and candid, especially regarding Shawn and St. Denis who come off badly. In the period left to Miss Cohen, (who has ""edited and completed"" the autobiography) Humphrey's life and work took hold, and once they did the pattern never changed significantly: an improbable but oddly satisfactory marriage, relentless devotion to her art. relationships that were chronically strained but constant. Miss Cohen makes the tensions felt, but finds the greater drama in her creative development, which continued long after her body failed her. The treatment is simply fine, likely to become an instant classic.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1972

ISBN: 0871272016

Page Count: -

Publisher: Wesleyan Univ. Press

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1972