May-June 2017 | Page Turners

Books of note (new and not)

Tappin’ at the Apollo: The African American Female Tap Dance Duo Salt and Pepper
By Cheryl M. Willis
Publisher: McFarland
Price: $39.95
256 pages; paperback; 2016

In the 1920s and 1930s, Edwina “Salt” Evelyn and Jewel “Pepper” Welch learned to tap dance on New York and Philadelphia street corners. By the 1940s, they were show business headliners, playing Harlem’s Apollo Theater with Count Basie and Fats Waller. The duo dressed and danced rhythm and flash styles like men; their exuberant dancing earned them audience acclaim and the respect of their male peers. This book chronicles the lives and careers of two performers who succeeded despite the racism and sexism of the Big Band era.

Saving Radio City Music Hall: A Dancer’s True Story
By Rosemary Novellino-Mearns
Publisher: TurningPointPress
Price: $22.95
206 pages; paperback; 2015

This book tells a true story: in the 1970s, Radio City Music Hall, an art deco architectural gem and iconic New York City landmark, was slated for demolition, but a dancer-led grassroots campaign managed to save it. Novellino-Mearns, at the time the dance captain of the Radio City Music Hall Ballet Company, describes how she motivated a small group of colleagues, friends, journalists, and political allies to join forces, challenge the Rockefeller establishment, and save the theater known as the “Showplace of the Nation.”

How They Became Famous Dancers: A Dancing History
By Anne Dunkin
Publisher: CreateSpace
Price: $13.95
136 pages; paperback; ages 10–14; 2015

This history for young readers chronicles 12 famous dancers—six women and six men—who came from different countries, practiced different dance styles, and lived in various eras from the 17th to the 20th century: Louis XIV, John Durang, Marie Taglioni, William Henry “Juba” Lane, Anna Pavlova, Rudolf Laban, Doris Humphrey, Michio Ito, Mrinalini Sarabhai, Pearl Primus, Amalia Hernández, and Arthur Mitchell. Each biographical sketch places the dancer in historical and cultural context; the accompanying “Create a Dance” activity gives readers the opportunity to try out each dancer’s style.

Merce Cunningham: Beyond the Perfect Stage
Photographs by Stephanie Berger
Publisher: Damiani
Price: $50
96 pages; hardcover; 2016

These photographs, taken between 2008 and 2011, capture the now-disbanded Merce Cunningham Dance Company from multiple perspectives as the dancers warm up and perform in a series of “Events.” The company did hundreds of these site-specific performances, which remixed new dance sequences with excerpts from the Cunningham repertory and took place in non-theatrical spaces such as art galleries, museums, warehouses, and outdoors.