Monday, June 22, 2015

Dance & Fashion

 All right, I'll confess--I found this book to be disappointing.  Your Mileage May Vary, of course, depending on whether you are  more interested in dance or fashion, for example.  Balletomanes will find a lot to appreciate in Dance & Fashion.

The first thing to note about this book is that it contains collection of articles based around the theme of "dance and fashion" rather than a single work.  It thus lacks a strong central narrative or argument.  The writers of the articles pick up different themes that interest them, and cover them in more or less detail.  The closest thing Dance & Fashion has to a structured narrative is the editor's introductory essay ("Dance & Fashion" by Valerie Steele).   The result is a book that has some topics over-represented (ballet shoes, say) while some are under-represented (Irene Castle only rates one brief mention?)

This leads me to my second niggle: Dance & Fashion mostly deals with dance in the form of High Art.  (Mary Davis' essay on Tangomania is a notable exception.)  And yet, dance also plays a major part in popular culture.  If we look at the history of fashion and dance and how they influenced one another we can find many examples in popular dance, from the stylised costumes of ballroom dancing to the polyester flares of the disco era.  I would have enjoyed reading this book more had this aspect of the topic also been discussed.

Dance & Fashion / edited by Valerie Steele

Yale University Press, 2013.
Published in conjunction with the exhibition at the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology held Sept. 13, 2014-Jan. 3, 2015.