LOOKING BACK IN WONDER: Diary of a Dance Critic by Walter Sorell

LOOKING BACK IN WONDER: Diary of a Dance Critic

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Reading this, it's hard to believe Sorell made a career of writing about dance. The author of a dozen books, a handful of plays, and several translations, these memoirs reveal a man overly fond of pronouncements and descriptions like ""very unique."" Set up in a year-by-year diary format, from 1949 through 1984, the book nevertheless seems poorly organized. This is partly due to Sorell's annoying habit of discussing an event for a paragraph or two before he tells you what he's writing about. It is also difficult for a reader to follow his abrupt changes of topic. He may spend two pages on the ballet Raymonda, then, without warning, begin a dissection of flamenco dancer Antonio Gades in the next paragraph. This book cries out for subtitles. The first few pages make a stab at establishing where the author came from and why he's interested in dance, but he includes few facts or dates. In this overtly modest attitude, Sorell seems to presuppose not only a general knowledge of dance, but some knowledge of his own career. This is presupposing a lot, since--of the many dance periodicals to which he contributed--only Dance Magazine is still publishing. The text is interspersed with illustrations, which sometimes adorn and explicate, and sometimes distract and detract. The former include photographs of modern dancers, especially a gorgeous movement shot of dancer/choreographer Joyce Trisler. The latter include line drawings by the author, which resemble Thurber gone terribly awry. Although the author was present at many notable performances, his writing fails to communicate any of the excitement or immediacy of dance--much less the ""wonder"" referred to in the title. As he writes in the preface: ""Looking back over three decades the events seem to be endless."" Amen.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1986
Publisher: Columbia Univ. Press