Mindy Aloff, a journalist, an essayist, and a dance critic, analyzes dance as the ultimate expression of human energy and feeling. From her personal anecdotes, her engaging collection of stories about dance from around the world, or her description of the captivating photograph by Helen Levitt of two children dancing, which she sees as one embodiment of the mystery and joy that dancing can evoke, Aloff’s exploration of the aesthetic, social, and spiritual impacts of dance will prove spellbinding.
Aloff takes us on a journey through various forms of dance—rituals, religious observances, storytelling, musical interpretations—to show why dance matters to human beings. Interlaced with personal experiences, this book builds on analysis to reveal the intimate relationship we have with dance—personal, spiritual, soul-searching, medicinal, and entertaining. The ideas speak to both specialist and general readers.
Mindy Aloff’s writing on cultural topics has appeared in the New Yorker, the New York Times, and the Threepenny Review. She is the editor of the anthology Dance in America and the author of Hippo in a Tutu: Dancing in Disney Animation.
“[A] smart, bracing book of reflection, analysis, memoir and history. . . . Even people with some experience of dance and lifetimes of attending performances will be impressed by the author’s range and expertise. Obscure anecdotes and facts are scattered throughout, little gifts to the reader.”—Willard Spiegelman, Wall Street Journal
“A unique blend of personal experience and informed analysis. . . . A thoughtful and engaging look at dance and its place in the human experience.”—Carolyn M. Mulac, Library Journal
“Densely researched and conversationally written. . . . An excellent read for both those who know little and for those who live and breathe this art form as professionals in the field.”—Wendy Perron, “Notable Dance Books of 2023”
“[Aloff’s] descriptions are fresh and often beautiful. She has a gift for conveying the vicarious experience of an audience member, a point of view that isn’t always explicit in dance writing of any era.”—Debra Cash, Arts Fuse
“Why Dance Matters is a veritable master class, and Aloff is an engaging and knowledgeable educator. As she writes, dance ‘makes one glad to be alive.’ This book is a resonant celebration of that endeavor.”—Anne Doventry, Booklist
“The range and depth of [Aloff’s] dance scholarship is, frankly, astonishing.“—Stacey Harwood-Lehman, Best American Poetry (blog)
“A magnificent achievement. Of the more than 500 dance books I once owned . . . this volume would have ranked near the top for its intellectual prowess and keen curiosity, for its thoughtful perceptions and pellucid prose.”—George Gelles, NYCitywoman.com
“Why Dance Matters seems to take in the experience of watching or taking part in dance in one breath, moving with great ease—even virtuosity—between subjects as wide-ranging as tight-rope walking, woodblock printing in the Edo period, Anna Pavlova, Fred Astaire, John Travolta’s walk in Saturday Night Fever, and Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange.”—Marina Harss, Fjord Review
“This thought-provoking tribute to the art form reveals the transcendent power of dance as a language—and, ultimately, why it matters.”—Kyra Laubacher, Pointe
“Mindy Aloff mines her decades of expertise as a dance critic, writer, and teacher to answer the question of why—and how—dance functions in our world. Why Dance Matters is a compelling, multi-faceted guide that elucidates dance’s integral connection to human experience.”—Marjorie Folkman, associate professor of professional practice, Barnard College
“If dance is a language, then Aloff has decoded its nuances in a book for the ages. She could not be more on pointe. I loved it.”—Allegra Kent, author of Once a Dancer . . .
“Animated by her acute intelligence, Mindy Aloff’s way of looking at the dance reminds me of that of Edwin Denby, our greatest dance critic, whose ‘imagination was huge.’”—David Lehman, author of The Mysterious Romance of Murder: Crime, Detection, and the Spirit of Noir
“When it comes to blending the poetry and history of dance, there’s no better writer than Mindy Aloff. With Why Dance Matters, Aloff’s writing pours forth with a finesse comparable to that of a Fred Astaire dance variation.”—Justin Peck, resident choreographer, New York City Ballet
“Mindy Aloff has written a marvelously wide-ranging yet warmly personal book, rich with experience and insight. Her knowledge is deep; her enthusiasm is irresistible. The effect is of a tour of the dance world with a wise and witty friend.”—Claudia Roth Pierpont, staff writer, New Yorker