The past decade's best writing on dance has appeared in The New Yorker and London's Dancing Times, and this collection has it all. Like Pauline Kael on films--but without the gush and dither--Arlene Croce has channeled a surging enthusiasm for an art form into a brash, amused, frankly subjective but intensely precise review--essay form that parallels the actual spectator excitement, exhilaration, or outrage. And like Kael, of course, Croce nurses her attachments and betes noirs: what the New York Times' Clive Barnes has for the American Ballet Theater, Croce has for the New York City Ballet (""the most adventurous, erratic, and valuable ballet company in the world""), and her City Ballet reviews--scolding, wishing, suggesting, remembering, cautiously welcoming Suzanne Farrell back, worrying over Robbins and Balanchine--create a mini-history that dovetails strangely yet nicely with Lincoln Kirstein's official versions. But Croce, unlike Barnes, can turn any kind of dancing--Twyla Tharp or Makarova or Merce Cunningham--into dynamic, unfluttery word-pictures made of one part physics, one part anatomy, and one part poetry. Baryshnikov's ""grand pirouette is a rhapsody of swelling volume and displaced weight."" When Martha Graham danced her Medea, she ""aimed and struck like a cobra, all in one piece""; her successors produce ""vague, catlike spitting and clawing."" This anti-sentimental muscularity makes Croce the ideal appraiser of loose-limbed Tharp (though Tharp's outdoor Medley evokes the book's gentlest moment), and her credentials as a non-condescending celebrant of more ""popular"" dance forms (the stunning Astaire & Rogers Book and an essay here on ""Dance in Film"") make her the ideal exposer of the dreary dancing in Broadway's Chorus Line and Chicago. Analyzing the aucience along with the dancers, the sets, costumes, and music along with (and as carefully as) the choreography, Croce startles fans and entices neophytes--and doesn't need, as she does once or twice, to swipe at Barnes of the Times. He may have the power, but she has--and conveys--the passion.