THE DANCE OF THE MOTHERS by Millicent Dillon


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 A poetic hieroglyph from the author of other such unusual works--including last year's After Egypt, an impressionistic biography of Mary Cassatt and Isadora Duncan. Dillon's interest is in the emotional and symbolic lives of women, not plot or even specifically drawn characters; so here it seems possible that the three women the author focuses on are all aspects of womanhood at large. They are wives in a California town in the 50's who attend a dance class taught by the too- intense Ninta. Aleida, ``the world expert on needing and wanting,'' takes part because she's tired of being a loser and wants to stand out, which she eventually does by starting a class of her own and stealing away Ninta's pupils. Anna is the only one who stays, because on some subterranean level she understands the theoretical underpinnings of Ninta's abstraction-based method; she feels pulled between stillness and motion, apart from herself and her emotions. Fat and clumsy Leona surprises everyone by claiming the solo dance in a community theater production; though she doesn't perform it well, she's the source of the fertility symbolism here--fertilizing her garden with blood from the lab where she works, then becoming pregnant after leaving her husband. What it all means precisely is hard to say, which is why many will find the book muddy and enervating. But it does produce a cumulative wail of grief arising from the rigors and limitations of simply being a woman.

Pub Date: June 28th, 1991
ISBN: 0-525-93312-3
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Dutton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1991


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