The life of American dancer and choreographer de Mille has all the makings of a heroine's saga, and Gherman ( Georgia O'Keeffe ) does not often let her subject get away. In fact, her decision to frame de Mille, an often angry artistic rebel, in the terms of conventional wisdom (``Agnes was in touch with all her senses''; ``deep within her, she knew she . . . wanted to become a dancer'') will strike some readers as unsatisfying. But the facts of a remarkable woman's accomplishments are presented clearly: her stubborn insistence on pursuing dance, considered unrespectable by her family; slow progress with an imperfectly proportioned body and ideas deemed too serious for commercial success; and the popularity of her choreography in Rodeo (1942), Oklahoma! (1943) and other works. Gherman reviews the milestones of de Mille's career, tells of her illnesses since 1975 and discusses her contributions to dance in nontechnical language; more background, however, would have been helpful. Now and then, stylistic infelicities intrude (de Mille ``lived sparsely'' at a time when money was short, and composer Richard Rodgers had ``dark black eyes''), but otherwise the biography is written crisply and sympathetically. Ages 9-up. (Apr.)
For youngsters eager for more about gifted dancers (or a well-written biography), have on hand: Beverly Gherman's Agnes de Mille: Dancing Off the Earth.
Gr 5 Up-- Despite its title, this biography of dancer and revolutionary choreographer Agnes de Mille is leaden and earthbound. Accentuating her struggles to find personal expression and public acceptance, Gherman omits much of the pleasure of such expression and makes it seem as though de Mille struggled only for fame and fortune. Much of the material is taken from the richly detailed and descriptive diaries de Mille kept throughout her life, but is either so condensed that significant facts of her life and thoughts are excluded or so verbatim that the adult vocabulary is confusing. People are mentioned and then never heard from again. For example, ``Mary Hunter, who would become a lifelong friend'' merits that one mention. While de Mille's drive and determination to persevere despite early years of rejections and a crippling stroke in her later years are included, the spirit of the pioneer of dance has been lost. --Frances E. Millhouser, Reston Regional Library, VA