Cover image for Agnes DeMille : dancing off the earth
Agnes DeMille : dancing off the earth
Gherman, Beverly.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York, NY : Atheneum, [1990]

Physical Description:
xiii, 138 pages ; 23 cm
The life and accomplishments of the choreographer, dancer, and author best know for the ballets she created on American themes and for the choreography of the musical "Oklahoma."
General Note:
Includes index.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
GV1785.D36 G44 1990 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



The life and accomplishments of the choreographer, dancer, and author best known for the ballets she created on American themes and for the choreography of the musical "Oklahoma."

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 6-10. Despite her privileged upbringing and passion for dance, de Mille was not allowed to begin ballet lessons until she was 13. She quickly discovered that she did not have the ideal ballet body but was "all rusty wire and safety pins." In a judicious blend of well-researched text and pithy, candidly revealing quotes from de Mille, the author infuses splendid vitality into her biography of one of America's greatest choreographers. Gherman traces the emergence of de Mille's dance technique as well as her strong sense of patriotism as she combined classical ballet with folk music in such dance tributes as Rodeo. Gherman notes that de Mille the author "wrote with wit and verve, using words in the same magical way she created dances"; here also is writing that reflects the caliber of its subject. Chapter notes, a lengthy bibliography, and 17 black-and-white photographs round out the book. --Phillis ~Wilson

Publisher's Weekly Review

The life of American dancer and choreographer de Mille has all the makings of a heroine's saga, and Gherman ( Georgia O'Keeffe ) does not often let her subject get away. In fact, her decision to frame de Mille, an often angry artistic rebel, in the terms of conventional wisdom (``Agnes was in touch with all her senses''; ``deep within her, she knew she . . . wanted to become a dancer'') will strike some readers as unsatisfying. But the facts of a remarkable woman's accomplishments are presented clearly: her stubborn insistence on pursuing dance, considered unrespectable by her family; slow progress with an imperfectly proportioned body and ideas deemed too serious for commercial success; and the popularity of her choreography in Rodeo (1942), Oklahoma! (1943) and other works. Gherman reviews the milestones of de Mille's career, tells of her illnesses since 1975 and discusses her contributions to dance in nontechnical language; more background, however, would have been helpful. Now and then, stylistic infelicities intrude (de Mille ``lived sparsely'' at a time when money was short, and composer Richard Rodgers had ``dark black eyes''), but otherwise the biography is written crisply and sympathetically. Ages 9-up. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 5 Up-- Despite its title, this biography of dancer and revolutionary choreographer Agnes de Mille is leaden and earthbound. Accentuating her struggles to find personal expression and public acceptance, Gherman omits much of the pleasure of such expression and makes it seem as though de Mille struggled only for fame and fortune. Much of the material is taken from the richly detailed and descriptive diaries de Mille kept throughout her life, but is either so condensed that significant facts of her life and thoughts are excluded or so verbatim that the adult vocabulary is confusing. People are mentioned and then never heard from again. For example, ``Mary Hunter, who would become a lifelong friend'' merits that one mention. While de Mille's drive and determination to persevere despite early years of rejections and a crippling stroke in her later years are included, the spirit of the pioneer of dance has been lost. --Frances E. Millhouser, Reston Regional Library, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.