Book Review: How to Dance Forever

So this is my first book review for the blog. While I do not feel there is a purpose for dance performance critiques on this blog, I do believe that book reviews are a nice fit within my vision of dance discourse. (Read more about my philosophy and goals on the “About the blog” page.) From time to time, I’d like to share about a dance book that I’ve read that I think is worthwhile. Of course it should be noted that there are many other great books on dance than just the ones I mention. But my goals are simply to introduce pieces of dance literature and perhaps enable others to enjoy/benefit from what I have read.

“Dancers are people who get high on movement. It may very well be the most profound reason we dance.”     –How to Dance Forever

How to Dance Forever was written by Daniel Nagrin in 1988. Nagrin uses his unique perspective as a dancer into his 60’s to speak about the many necessities for sustaining in the world of dance. He speaks about many aspects of being a dancer, including everyday issues like food, sleep, and stress, as well as more specific challenges like avoiding injury, performing at your best, and managing your career. Perhaps the most engaging part of the book is his chapter on “The heart-mind of the dancer.” In it he discusses the really important subtleties about being a dancer that are often forgotten or not given enough attention – who we are, why we dance, how we view our work, how we sustain and continue on. The book also contains original words by other aging performers, results of a survey by Nagrin on injuries and healers, and a short tribute to Helen Tamiris (in my opinion a worthy though less-known modern dance pioneer).

Weaknesses of the book: Parts of it are outdated (such as nutritional practices and equipment suggestions). The survey on injuries, though interesting, is not really a scientific study with significant results.

Why it’s worthwhile: First of all, though there are a lot of outdated suggestions made, there are many more points that are dead-on and still very pertinent to being a dancer today. Secondly, beyond its tips and insider insights, the book is really great at making you think about your own choices in life and as a dancer; it stirs you to be self-reflective and consider how you tackle all the aspects of being a dancer.

Questions of reflection inspired by the book: Is there a place for older dancers on the stage? What are the best ways to sustain as a dancer? Am I making the best choices in my daily life? How do I approach my work in dance?

Best audience: dancers, of all ages; dance teachers and others who directly impact the training of a dancer

Amazon page: How to Dance Forever

More on the author: NY Times obituary, artist website

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