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The Johnston Letter: Merce, Historical –‘The whole man is in it every time’

By Jill Johnston
Copyright Jill Johnston 2009, 2017

(Editor’s Note. January 9, 2017: By the majesty of her writing, perspicacity of her insight, and scope of her perspective, which transcended the typically insular universe of most of her contemporaries in post-Denby, pre-Dohse dance criticism, Jill Johnston elevated post-modern dance to a position of equal footing with larger modern and post-modern movements with observations like, here: “Cunningham belongs to that great shift of focus — from representation to the concentration on materials — which is so central to the revolution in art in this century….” Originally published in the Village Voice and Art in America and first reprinted on the DI, by permission of the author, in May 2009.)
It is not easy to see. Outside the theater, living as we do, most of us see very little with our eyes wide open…. It is rare to see more than a general outline. Or to see more and still enter. That is the crucial transition, from seeing to entering. Not only crucial but mysterious, so I won’t say any more except to note that I think most people who go to dance concerts don’t see very well, not even dancers, sometimes dancers especially, and most often critics, who must attend special classes in becoming blind.

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