Music

The Sentient Archive: Bodies, Performance, and Memory

The Sentient Archive summons a feast of diverse voices, giving each the space to speak without forcing them into a single chorus. Instead, the book works like a landscape where these voices and their shimmering echoes intersect, inviting us in to join the unfinished, disappearing dance of movement and memory, of the sentient body and its archival impulse, its fragile yet insistent resistance to the slippage of time. Collectively, these voices testify to the whispers and the wild feelings in our bones that can hardly be put into words, but bear our social flesh forward.” —Elizabeth A. Behnke, Study Project in Phenomenology of the Body

The Sentient Archive gathers 28 smart essays by scholars and practitioners in dance, performance, science, and the visual arts. These challenging essays cross boundaries within and between disciplines while exploring the ways the human body serves as a repository for knowledge.

Contributors include Tomie Hahn, Nancy Goldner, Marcia B. Siegel, Jenn Joy, Alain Platel, Catherine J. Stevens, Meg Stuart, André Lepecki, Ralph Lemon, and other notable performers, scholars, and artists.

Bill Bissell is the director of performance at The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage. Linda Caruso Haviland is an associate professor at Bryn Mawr College and the founder and director of its dance program.

Development of the content of The Sentient Archive was supported by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, Philadelphia.

The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage is a multidisciplinary grantmaker and hub for knowledge sharing, funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts, and dedicated to fostering a vibrant cultural community in Greater Philadelphia. The Center fulfills this mission by investing in ambitious, imaginative arts and heritage projects that showcase the region’s cultural vitality and enhance public life, and by engaging in an exchange of ideas concerning artistic and interpretive practice with a broad network of cultural leaders. For more information, visit www.pcah.us.

 

Alvin Lucier at the ISSUE Project Room

A celebration of the life and work of experimental American music composer, Alvin Lucier, the ISSUE Project Room is partnering with Zürcher Hochschule der Kunste(ZHDK), November 8-9, 2017 to recreate ZHDK’s October 2016 three-day festival of music composition, theory, musicology, sound studies, aesthetics, critical theory, and art history. Although compressed to two days instead of the original three, ISSUE’s New York staging of the festival is the first of its kind, bridging Germany’s experimental music culture and American musicology. Some of the invited musical guests include Joan LaBarbara, Charles Curtis, Stephane O’Malley, Oren Ambarchi, Gary Schmalzl, and the Ever Present Orchestra. The series also will include the publication of an exclusive German-curated box set of documents from the original October 2016 festival, including four LPs, a CD, essays, interviews, scientific articles, archival photos, and music compositions. Lucier is to host a signing of the box set after the concert each night.

Alvin Lucier is an American composer of experimental music. Internationally known for his experimentation in electronic music and sound aesthetic, Lucier was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in 2006 and has been invited to numerous festivals and residencies in Germany, Czech Republic, Spain, United Kingdom, and the United States. His most recent book, Eight Lectures on Experimental Music, is an influential collection of lectures, featuring influential composers, Maryanne Amacher, Robert Ashley, Philip Glass, and more, to tell the story of twentieth-century American experimental music. Lucier is also the author of Music 109: Notes on Experimental Music and co-author, with Douglas Simon, of Chambers: Scores and Interviews.

Information for buying tickets to the ISSUE Project Room series can be found here and here, featuring a schedule of performances for each night.

Announcing My Music, My War from Lisa Gilman

The Listening Habits of U.S. Troops in Iraq and Afghanistan

A study of music in the everyday lives of U.S. troops and combat veterans.

“A gifted interviewer, Lisa Gilman goes beyond stereotypes of the wounded American soldier by painting a complex and nuanced emotional portrait of contemporary soldiers’ lives, ones which the media rarely allow us to see and hear.”
—Jonathan Ritter, coeditor of Music in the Post-9/11 World

A study of music in the everyday lives of U.S. troops and combat veterans.

During the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, technological developments in music listening enabled troops to carry vast amounts of music with them, and allowed them to easily acquire new music. Digital music files allow for easy sharing, with fellow troops as well as with friends and loved ones far away. This ethnographic study examines U.S. troops’ musical-listening habits during and after war, and the accompanying fear, domination, violence, isolation, pain, and loss that troops experienced. My Music, My War is a moving ethnographic account of what war was like for those most intimately involved. It shows how individuals survive in the messy webs of conflicting thoughts and emotions that are intricately part of the moment-to-moment and day-to-day phenomenon of war, and the pervasive memories in its aftermath. It gives fresh insight into musical listening as it relates to social dynamics, gender, community formation, memory, trauma, and politics.

Visit our Spotify page for a related playlist: play.spotify.com/user/wesleyanup

gilman mymusicmywar

Lisa Gilman is an associate professor in the Department of English and Folklore Program at the University of Oregon. She is the author of The Dance of Politics: Performance, Gender, and Democratization in Malawi and director of the film Grounds for Resistance: Stories of War, Sacrifice, and Good Coffee. Her articles have appeared in Folklore, Popular Music, and Journal of American Folklore.

 

My Music, My War makes an original contribution to current studies on music and war, with its nuanced discussion of how music listening is used to define, and at times resist, gendered norms and rhetorics of hyper-masculinity, as well as the complex roles that music plays in veterans’ reintegration into civilian life.”  —Kip Pegley, coeditor of Music, Politics, and Violence

 

Music Culture Series

April

240 pp., 6 x 9”

Unjacketed Cloth, $80.00 x

978-0-8195-7599-9

 

Paper, $26.95

978-0-8195-7600-2

 

eBook, $21.99 Y

978-0-8195-7601-9

Announcing Words of Our Mouth, Meditations of Our Heart from Kenneth Bilby

Celebrating the legendary studio musicians of Jamaican popular music through personal photographs and interviews

bilby wordsofourmouth

While singers, producers, and studio owners have become international icons, many of the musicians who were essential to shaping the sound of Jamaican music have remained anonymous. Words of Our Mouth, Meditations of Our Heart: Pioneering Musicians of Ska, Rocksteady, Reggae, and Dancehall, complete with 98 color photographs, is the first book devoted to the studio musicians who were central to Jamaica’s popular music explosion. Bilby delves into the full spectrum of Jamaican music, from traditional and folk genres, such as Mento, Poco, and Buru, to the popular urban styles of ska, rocksteady, and reggae. Photographic portraits and interview excerpts (with such musical pioneers as Prince Buster, Robbie Shakespeare, Sly Dunbar, Lee “Scratch” Perry, and many of Bob Marley’s early musical collaborators) provide new insights into the birth of Jamaican popular music in the recording studios of Kingston, Jamaica in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. The book illustrates how players of “traditional” Jamaican music and lesser-known singers have made fundamental and wide-ranging contributions to the music. Appendices include a recommended listening list, a bibliography of interviews and field recordings, and a glossary of terms.

Kenneth Bilby is an ethnomusicologist, writer, and lifelong student of Jamaican music. He is the former director of research at the Center for Black Research at Columbia College Chicago and currently a research associate at the Smithsonian Institution. Author of True-Born Maroons and coauthor of Caribbean Currents: Caribbean Music from Rumba to Reggae, his collection of field recordings of Jamaican traditional music is one of the largest in the world.

“Bilby celebrates his roots in Jamaica in this magnificent book through beautiful photographs and interviews with musicians. Bilby unveils the backstory of Jamaican music, and his work will be cherished by all who love Jamaican music.”
—William Ferris, author of Give My Poor Heart Ease: Voices of the Mississippi Blues

“Bilby doesn’t just tell the story that’s never been told—delivering an homage to the heroes who helped shape Jamaican music—he lets these heroes tell the story in their own words, writing their own chapter in history.”
—Baz Dreisinger, producer and writer of Black & Blue: Legends of the Hip-Hop Cop and Rhyme & Punishment

“An essential work of Jamaican musical scholarship. The interviews are engrossing on multiple levels. Our understanding of the black musics of the New World would have fewer gaps in it if there were more of the kind of thorough oral history that Bilby does here. He proves himself to be not merely a good collector but a good listener.”
—John Jeremiah Sullivan, author of Pulphead

Enjoy some musical examples!

Drums of Defiance: Maroon Music from the Earliest Free Black Communities of
Jamaica. (CD) Smithsonian/Folkways. 1992. [1970s–1990s]

Example of Nyabinghi drumming

Mento version of Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab”, performed by The Jolly Boys

Alerth Bedasse & Chin’s Calypso Sextet perform “Industrial Fair”

Cedric “Im” Brooks and the Divine Light. From Mento to Reggae to Third World
Music. (CD) VP. 2008. [1973]

Studio One Ska—The Skatalites “Beardsman Ska”

Rocksteady: The Roots of Reggae. (CD) Mollselekta. 2009. [2000s]

The Harder They Come (Deluxe Edition). (2-CD box set). Hip-O. 2003. [1960s and 1970s]

Publication date: May 10, 2016
256 pp., 7 x 10”
Paper, $29.95 x
978-0-8195-7588-3
eBook, $23.99 Y
978-0-8195-7604-0

Celebrating International Women’s Day

Today, March 8th, is International Women’s Day! A great way to commemorate a day—and womens’ history month—is to read a book written by or about a woman. Here are just a few of our favorite books by or about our favorite females.

Williams - Prudence R-150-3In its new paperback edition, Connecticut state senator Donald E. Williams’s Prudence Crandall: The Fight for Equality in the 1830s, Dred Scott, and Brown v. Board of Education is a necessity to read. Crandall was a Connecticut school teacher dedicated to the education of African-American girls who ignited a firestorm of controversy when she opened Miss Crandall’s School for Young Ladies and Little Misses of Color, in Canterbury. The town’s residents retaliated—Crandall couldn’t find anyone willing to supply her with goods necessary for running the school, and even the school’s well water was poisoned. Crandall herself faced ridicule all over town, was arrested, and yet did not close the school until her girls’ safety was threatened. Williams tells of Crandall’s push for justice and how her struggles helped to set legal precedent. He explains the relationship between three trials brought against Crandall, for her violation of Connecticut’s “Black Law,” and other notable legal cases: the Amistad case, the Dred Scott decision, and Brown v. Board of Education. Williams also discusses how Crandall v. State impacts our modern interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment.

 

 

Basinger - Womans-R-72-3 In A Woman’s View: How Hollywood Spoke to Women 1930-1960, Jeanine Basinger highlights the incredibly contradictory messages sent to female moviegoers—films about women’s lives constantly displayed both conformity and righteous freedom. Where women’s film has often been dismissed as another instrument in female oppression, Basinger brings an understanding of both film and women’s lives to parse out the complexities in films sometimes dismissed as “sheer trash.” Films from across genres, from melodramas to westerns to musicals, are examined under Basinger’s discerning eye for traces of subversive rebellion against the “proper” idealized role of women. As the New York Times Book Review said, “Ms. basinger analyzes Hollywood’s view with affectionate wit and verve…Her book is a timely reminder that female rebellion didn’t start with Thelma and Louise.”

 

 

Reed - Weird R-300-9 In humorous, ironic prose, acclaimed Science Fiction writer Kit Reed explores women’s lives and feminist issues in the twenty stories inside Weird Women, Wired Women. Spanning across the years of the women’s movement to more contemporary years in American history, Reed’s writing in Weird Women, Wired Women deals in her usual darkly comic speculative fiction at its best. Reed uses her expertise in science fiction to further cast a subversive spell over these depictions of predominantly-believed women’s roles. The collection of short stories with provocative, clever titles such as “The Bride of Bigfoot” and “Mommy Nearest” takes worn-out suburban subjects and gives them a fresh coat of paint—if that paint is moving, eerie, sharp social criticism, that is.

 

 

0819565474Inside American Women Poets in the 21st Century: Where Lyric Meets Language, readers can find indispensably valuable poetry and prose from women’s points of view. Each section of the book is devoted to a single poet and contains new poems; a brief “statement of poetics” by the poet herself in which she explores the forces—personal, aesthetic, political—informing her creative work; a critical essay on the poet’s work; a biographical statement; and a bibliography listing works by and about the poet. With highly acclaimed poets selected-among them Rae Armantrout, Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge, Jorie Graham, Barbara Guest, Susan Howe, and Harryette Mullen—this collection forces us to redefine lyric poetry. Underscoring the dynamic give and take between poets and the culture at large, this anthology is indispensable for anyone interested in poetry, gender and the creative process.

 

 

McGee_Some_R_72_2Women and jazz have been intricately involved with one another since the genre’s conception, but so often the men of jazz stole the spotlight away from the many acclaimed ladies. Some Liked It Hot looks at all-girl bands and jazz women from the 1920s through the 1950s and how they fit into the nascent mass culture, particularly film and television. G.A. Foster from Choice says, “A remarkable book in every respect. Although one can find several other books on this topic, this study stands above the rest for its accuracy, scholarly discipline, thoroughness of research, and detailed analysis… A stunning achievement. Essential.”

 

 

Ralph Lemon coming to Wesleyan University 2/25/16

As part of the World of Arts in the Heart of Connecticut series hosted by the Wesleyan University Center for the Arts, Ralph Lemon will appear at Wesleyan’s Ring Family Performing Arts Hall on February 25, 2016. His presentation, Ceremonies Out of the Air, touches upon both his new and old work in relation to an imagined South.

As a choreographer, writer, director, and conceptualist, Ralph Lemon is a dynamic voice, canonizing what is African American literature and history through his in-depth research and presentation of traditionally African American culture through dance, art, and memoir. In his latest book, Come home Charley Patton, Lemon examines and imagines the South through memoir, documenting the Civil Rights era and contemporary southern culture through his journal entries. Sketches and photographs are included, capturing the haunting sites of lynchings, Civil Rights protests, and meetings between Lemon and the descendants of musicians and activists. A few images from the book, documenting Lemon’s travels, are included below:

one of the bedrooms in Mose Toliver's home

One of the bedrooms in Mose Toliver’s home. Mose Toliver was a folk artist whose art can be found in the Rosa Parks Museum.

a framed image of Elvi Presley in Mrs. Kent's house in Memphis, TN

A framed image of Elvis Presley in Mrs. Helen Kent’s house in Memphis, TN.

Helen Kent in her living room

Helen Kent, the daughter of Frank Stokes, an African American blues musician, in her living room.

in memory of the many protests and marches of Birmingham, AL, Lemon captures an image of a hose, a common weapon to deter peaceful protestors

In memory of the many protests and marches of Birmingham, AL, Lemon captures an image of a hose, a common weapon to deter peaceful protestors.

Consider shopping local this holiday season!

We reached out to our local independent booksellers to find out what fun events they have planned for Small Business Saturday, Cyber (or CIDER) Monday, and the rest of the holiday season. If you shop for the holidays, please consider ordering or purchasing gifts from local retailers. You might also consider giving a book from a small press or university press. Wesleyan has number of books that would make great gifts, some are included here.

*November 28th* SMALL BUSINESS SATURDAY

Bank Square Books
53 W. Main St
Mystic, CT 06355
Day-long celebration with local authors: James R. Benn, L.M. Browning, Sarah MacLean, Ruth Crocker, Ann Haywood Leal, Susan Kietzman, David K. Leff, Adam Shaughnessy, and Robert Steele.

Breakwater Books
81 Whitfield St
Guilford, CT 06437
Book signing with Mary Sharnick, Orla’s Canvas, 12–2PM

Hickory Stick Bookshop
2 Green Hill Rd.
Washington, CT 06794
Book signing with Marilyn Singer, Tallulah’s Tap Shoes, 2PM

Mystic Seaport Museum Store
75 Greenmanville Ave
Mystic, CT 06355
Book signing with Roger C. Taylor, L. Francis Herreshoff: Yacht Designer,  3pm

*November 30th* CIDER MONDAY

Breakwater Books
81 Whitfield St
Guilford, CT 06437
Join us on “Cider Monday” (our version Cyber Monday) & enjoy warm cider and snacks as you do your holiday shopping. Leave your computer and shop in a local bookstore where real people can help you with your selections. Enjoy an old fashioned shopping experience! (View more events here.)

Hickory Stick Bookshop
2 Green Hill Rd.
Washington, CT 06794
Enjoy a cup of cider and a snack as you have an old-fashioned holiday shopping experience in a real bookstore with real people to help you. We promise our “servers” won’t crash, but instead will offer recommendations that will help you with your selections. We’ll even wrap your gifts!

Additional Events

Bank Square Books
53 W. Main St
Mystic, CT 06355
December 1 – Mystic Stroll, businesses in Mystic stay open late for holiday shoppers! That night, we will host cookbook author Ellen Stimson for a cookie contest and cookie swap. More info here.

Breakwater Books
81 Whitfield St
Guilford, CT 06437
December 3 – E-List’s annual Girls Night Out Guilford, 5PM. Meet at Whitfields, to start with a 1/2 price glass of wine! More info here.

Broad Street Books
45 Broad St
Middletown, CT 06457
December 19 – Scooby Doo books and read by Santa
Broad Street Books is also a one of the sponsors of Middletown’s Holiday on Main Street.

Burgundy Books
1285 Boston Post Rd
Westbrook, CT 06498
November 21 – Luncheon with Carl Safina, Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel, 12PM
December 15 – Book signing with Susannah Cahalan, Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness,  12:30PM

Harbor Books
146 Main St
Old Saybrook, CT 06475
December 4 – Old Saybrook’s Winter Stroll, stop by at our table for a free novelty bookmark!

Hickory Stick Bookshop
2 Green Hill Rd.
Washington, CT 06794
December 5 – Donna Marie Merritt, We Walk Together, 2PM
December 6 – Jack Chaucer, Nikki Blue: Source of Trouble

Mystic Seaport Museum Store
75 Greenmanville Ave
Mystic, CT 06355
December 5 – Book signing with Carlo DeVito, Wreck of the Whale Ship Essex: The Complete Illustrated Edition, 1PM
December 6 – Book signing with Paul S. Krantz, Riding the Wild Ocean, 2pm

R.J. Julia Booksellers
768 Boston Post Rd
Madison, CT 06443
December 2 – Book signing with Ellen Stimpson, An Old Fashioned Christmas, 7PM
December 3 – Teens Talk Books Holiday Party, 6PM
December 6 – Santa Letter Writing Workshop, 12PM–1:30PM
December 18 – Voices In The Bookstore, local authors read their work, 6PM
December 20 – The Grinch Story Time, 10:30AM

Gift Ideas from Wesleyan University Press

 fauxhawk featured image ORouke_Breakfast featured image  Leff_Maple featured image Copy of Farrow - Log Books R-72-3
Eichenbaum _ Director R-72-3 Jones comps.indd  KlostyBookwOutline72DPI  Adobe Photoshop PDF

Announcing Radicalism and Music from Jonathan Pieslak

A comparative study of the music cultures of four radical groups

Radicalism and Music offers a convincing argument for music’s transformational impact on the radicalization, reinforcement, and motivational techniques of violent political activists. It makes a case for the careful examination of music’s roles in radical cultures, roles that have serious impacts, as evidenced by the actions of the Frankfurt Airport shooter Arid Uka, Sikh Temple murderer Wade Page, white supremacist Matthew Hale, and animal-rights activist Walter Bond, among others. Such cases bring up difficult questions about how those involved in radical groups can be stirred to feel or act under the influence of music.

Radicalism and Music is based on interviews, email correspondence, concerts, and videos. As a “sound strategy,” music is exploited to its fullest potential as a tool for recruiting and retaining members by members of al-Qa’ida, the Hammerskin Nation, Christian Identity, Kids in Ministry International, Earth First!, and Vegan Straight Edge. But, as the book points out, the coercive use of music is not isolated to radical cultures, but in political propaganda, sporting events, and popular music as well. Ultimately, Radicalism and Music shows how music affects us through our emotions, and how it triggers violence and enables hateful ideology.

Pieslak_Radicalism

JONATHAN PIESLAK is an associate professor at the City College of New York and the Graduate Center, CUNY. He is the author of Sound Targets: American Soldiers and Music in the Iraq War.

Listen to interviews with the author here:
To the Best of Our Knowledge
WAMC’s The Academic Minute
The Mike Huckabee Show

Radicalism and Music is a compelling read, rigorously researched and accessible to the interested reader. Pieslak is to be commended for his neutral approach: he comes across as intellectually intimate with his subjects without being committed to their respective agenda or passing judgment.”
—Nelly Lahoud, author of The Jihadis’ Path to Self-Destruction

Radicalism and Music is a well-argued foil to the notion that music is a universal language that brings people together. The subtheme of music and its relationship to the Internet provides important groundwork for thinking of music as a particular ‘information technology’ without divorcing it from its ritual function.”
—Benjamin J. Harbert, coeditor of The Arab Avant-Garde: Music, Politics, Modernity

 “Pieslak’s work reveals uses of music that are questionable and discomforting and thus rarely studied. By skillfully comparing music’s role in a range of extremist cultures, Pieslak remaps the bounds of human musicality, showing how music’s social and emotional power can inspire violence as much as community, cultivate hatred as much as beauty.”
–Daniel Cavicchi, author of Listening and Longing: Music Lovers in the Age of Barnum

November
320 pp., 8 illus., 6 x 9”
Unjacketed Cloth, $85 x
978-0-8195-7583-8
Paper, $27.95
978-0-8195-7584-5
eBook, $21.99 Y
978-0-8195-7585-2

#tbt: The Hidden Musicians revisited

January 11th–12th, 2016, Open University in Milton Keynes, United Kingdom will hold a conference surrounding The Hidden Musicians by Ruth Finnegan, who is a music professor at the university. More information about this event can be found at here.

Finnegan - Hidden 4c

The Hidden Musicians: Music-Making in an English Town, was originally published in 1989, but was reprinted by the Wesleyan University Press in 2007. The book is comprised of various studies by Professor Finnegan who studied the practices of amateur musicians and music ensembles in the small English town of Milton Keynes. She studied the differences and distinctions between what makes a band ‘professional’ or ‘amateur’, seen through the lens of professional and candid photographs taken at rehearsals and musical events, as seen below.

finnegan1

 above: The eighty-year-old Wolverton Town and British Rail Band. The current members in their band uniform.

finnegan2

Above: An informal photograph of the Woburn Sands Band shortly after competing in the National Brass Band Finals, showing the age range typical of many music groups (here 11 to 70).

 

The book also explores the different genres of music made in the town, comparing the different rock bands, musical theatre ensembles, and variations of marching bands and community bands in the town. Through this, Finnegan creates a new methodology of studying music and how music is made and performed as seen throughout the book’s illustrations and its resonance within the musical academia of Open University.

Outside of Milton Keynes, amateur bands and musicians like those of the small English town, have continued to flourish throughout the years upon the same premises of being communal, casual, and organized by camaraderie. In the Wesleyan University Press office, our director, Suzanna Tamminen, below, spends her lunch hour practicing her tuba for her community band.

suzanna tuba1

Night’s Dancer: The Life of Janet Collins

Janet Collins (1917–2003) was a renowned dancer, painter, and the first African-American soloist ballerina to appear on the stage of New York’s Metropolitan Opera. It took her many years of resolve, facing the blatant racism that existed in the dance community (as it did elsewhere in the United States), to achieve the status of prima ballerina at the Met. In fact, at age 15 she was offered a position with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, with the caveat that she would “paint her face white.” Collins declined. But she did not give up.

 Lewin-Night R-72-3rule

Night’s Dancer: The Life of Janet Collins, recipient of the Marfield Prize,
the National Award for Arts Writing, and now available in paperback.
The first two chapters are comprised of Collins’s unfinished autobiography.

 larger collage

 

The black dancing body was welcome on American and European stages of the mid-twentieth century, but usually only in forms of popular entertainment that perpetuated African-American stereotypes: the comic, the streetwise, and the exotic primitive. These stereotypical characters were found in minstrel shows and vaudeville, as well as on Broadway and in Hollywood movies. Pioneers like Edna Guy, Hemsley Winfield, and Katherine Dunham paved the way for African-American dancers in the arena of Modern dance, but the world of ballet remained closed, its movement vocabulary deemed too refined for black performers. In addition to the stereotypes of being too raw, too sensual, and too primal, blacks also had to contend with an irrational judgment of their physiques. White dance directors and choreographers deemed the black dancing physique as incompatible with ballet’s technical and aesthetic demands, assuming that they somehow lacked the grace and precision necessary to succeed in ballet.

Night’s Dancer tells the story of Janet Collins, who helped to pave the way for positive change in the dance world. She remains an inspiration today, due to her artistry, courage, and perseverance. Biographer Yaël Tamar Lewin, who is also a dancer, does not shy away from the darker corners of her life. Lewin discusses Collins’s battle with depression, the sterilization she underwent as a young woman, and the hard-hitting rejection she faced because of her skin color. Lewin does not merely focus on Collins’s long struggle to break the race barrier. Drawing on extensive research as well as interviews with Collins, her family, friends, and colleagues, Lewin chronicles her life as a well-rounded and accomplished artist, a true pioneer in her choreographic work. Collins fused styles, topics, and music in new ways. She also was a talented painter.

Wesleyan University Press is not alone in recognizing the talents and achievements of Janet Collins. She is also the subject of Dancing in the Light: The Janet Collins Story, a new short animated film narrated by Chris Rock and produced by Karyn Parsons for Sweet Blackberry. Carmen de Lavallade, an accomplished dancer, choreographer, and Yale University professor, is working on a feature film about her talented cousin. De Lavallade is collaborating with actress/producer Roberta Haynes and writer Jenny Callicott on the film, Prima: The Janet Collins StoryTheir website explains: “So many events in today’s news remind us that it is increasingly important to remember the struggles of the civil rights movement.” And asks: “[W]hy is it that Janet Collins’ amazing accomplishment of becoming the first black prima ballerina of the Metropolitan Opera a story that remains untold?”

Collins’s story is still very relevant. In her memoir, Misty Copeland (now principal dancer at American Ballet Theater) noted that “[t]here were many people who seemed not to want to see black ballerinas, who thought that our very presence made ballet less authentic, less romantic, less true. The bitter truth is I felt that I wasn’t being fully accepted because I was black, that leaders of the company just didn’t see me starring in more classical roles, despite my elegant line and flow.” Collins was among a small, dedicated group of black dancers who helped pave a difficult road for talents such as Copeland.

Janet Collins has been widely recognized as one of the finest dancers in America. Her artistic and personal influences continue to shape the dance world today, not only due to her perseverance, but also due to her great talent and creativity as a dancer and artist.

Photo credits, all found in Night’s Dancer: 1 & 2: Collins in Spirituals. Photo @ Dennis Stock/Magnum Photos. Courtesy of the Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. 3: Painting of a young girl by Collins. Courtesy of the estate of Janet Collins. 4: Painting of a woman with magnolias by Collins. Courtesy of the estate of Janet Collins. 5: Collins with Hanya Holm, Don Redlick, and Elizabeth Harris, 1961. Photo by Bob McIntyre. Courtesy of Don Redlich. 6: Collins surrounded by her art. Betty Udesen/The Seattle Times. Featured image: Photo by Carl Van Vechten. Courtesy of the Van Vechten Trust and the Carl Van Vechten Papers, Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.