December 2016 | Page Turners


Books of note (new and not)

America Dancing: From the Cakewalk to the Moonwalk
By Megan Pugh
Publisher: Yale University Press
Price: $32.50
416 pages; hardcover; 2015

America’s dance history reflects its tangled culture: dancers from wildly different backgrounds learned from, imitated, and stole from one another, and audiences embraced the results as profoundly American. Pugh tells that history through the stories of Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Ginger Rogers, Fred Astaire, Agnes de Mille, Paul Taylor, and Michael Jackson—virtuosos who helped define the art form—to show how the ideal of freedom became crucial to American dance, and to demonstrate dance’s centrality in the nation’s art, life, and identity.

Stompin’ at the Savoy: The Story of Norma Miller
Written by Alan Govenar and illustrated by Martin French
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Price: $15.99
Ages 9–12; 64 pages; hardcover; 2006

In 1920s Jazz Age Harlem, young Norma Miller lived behind the Savoy Ballroom, America’s only dance hall where blacks and whites mingled on the same mahogany floor. At 12, she brought the house down, swing-stepping in the majestic “home of happy feet” with dancer Twist Mouth George. Before long, she rose to fame performing the lindy hop. In this as-told-to autobiography, Miller recalls her coming of age as a feisty young dancer during the heyday of swing; French’s jazzy illustrations evoke vintage poster art.

Physics and the Art of Dance: Understanding Movement, 2nd ed.
By Kenneth Laws with Arleen Sugano
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Price: $44.95
288 pages; paperback; 2008

How do dancers create the illusion of defying gravity? Laws, a dance-trained physicist, teams with dance instructor Sugano to answer this question and more. Step-by-step experiments demonstrate the principles of physics that make dance movements possible, and show how analysis can lead to efficient movement. Intended for dancers, dance instructors, and science teachers seeking new ways to draw students into science, the book also includes time-stop photography by dance photographers Martha Swope and Gene Schiavone.

Song and Dance Man
Written by Karen Ackerman and illustrated by Stephen Gammell
Publisher: Dragonfly Books
Price: $7.99
Ages 3–7; 32 pages; paperback; 1992

Three children follow their grandfather into an attic overflowing with memorabilia from the “good old days” before television, when he was a vaudeville song-and-dance man. From a dusty trunk, Grandpa unearths tap shoes, a bowler hat, and a cane. To the children’s delight, he taps, sings, plays banjo, performs magic tricks, and tells jokes. Then the vaudeville trappings go back in the trunk—and Grandpa explains that he wouldn’t trade the old days of song and dance for the time he now spends with his grandchildren.