Agnes De Mille (Women in the Arts Series) by Judy L. Hasday

By Judy L. Hasday

Lines the existence and accomplishments of the dancer and choreographer most sensible identified for the ballets she created on American subject matters and for the choreography of the musical Oklahoma..

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He told me to write. I became editor of the school paper. (De Mille, Piper, 29) When it came to acting or dance, though, William remained firm. He did not want his daughters involved in the theater. He wanted his daughters to be refined, well-mannered, bright, intelligent women, and he was bent on having them raised that way. Agnes wanted to walk on a studio set, dressed in an extravagant costume, and release all emotion within her in a perfect scene. She wanted to burst through the fields, dancing, jumping, and twirling, in constant motion in the wide-open expanse without any constraints.

In her senior year, Agnes met Douglass “Dug” Montgomery, an aspiring stage actor whom Margaret had eyed at the Pasadena Playhouse. Dug seemed more interested in seeing Agnes dance than in dating Margaret. After seeing one of her amateur shows at the Friday Morning Club, Dug was convinced that Agnes was no amateur. Soon Dug and Agnes became kindred spirits — able to talk endlessly about theater, acting, and dance. He often encouraged her to leave school and start a professional career in dance, telling her she was a great performer and had a duty to follow her calling.

When Agnes was five, Anna took her to see a performance that featured the Danish ballerina Adeline Genée. The experience inspired Agnes to enlist the participation of other children and put on her own dance pageants at Merriewold. At that time, though, dance for the young Agnes was just whimsy and child’s play. When she was thirteen, she saw a performance by Anna 45 46 AGNES DE MILLE Pavlova and was immediately mesmerized by the delicate movements of the petite Russian prima ballerina. Agnes described what she saw in Dance to the Piper: All her gestures were liquid and possessed of an inner rhythm that flowed to inevitable completion with the finality of architecture or music.

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