I waited for this book to arrive with a good bit of anticipation because I have fond memories or reading previously published Joseph Campbell books. This one is a collection of articles and lectures about dance published between the 1940's to 1970's. Much of the book is the never previously published unfinished book Campbell was working on at the time of his death on the topic of dance and mythology. Although known as a professor of comparative religion, he was also married to a successful, well-known modern dancer, Jean Erdman. His interest in dance is deep and personal. So should you read it?

Readers who come to this book with prior knowledge of early modern dance history and dance pieces, will be rewarded with thoughtful essays on the development of trends in modern dance and the use of mythology in its repertoire. If you are a younger reader without any prior familiarity with dancers such as Martha Graham or Isadora Duncan, the only way to fully appreciate this book would be to treat it as a guide to which dancers of early modern dance to study and go find videos of these dances. Otherwise, Campbell's rich commentary will be lost on you. I say this as a person who is too young myself to fully appreciate this book. Campbell is a gifted writer but without the background of who these people are, it's like reading the arts and entertainment section from a paper written before your birth. Or watching the Academy Awards without having seen any of the films.

Like anyone, Campbell was a man of his time. There are some ways of looking at the world which are going to strike readers as old fashioned, some attitudes or comments by either the author or his subjects that will offend someone. The extensive use of quotes of some of the leading modern day female dancers was quite interesting. These ladies were opinionated, brash, and as much ahead of their time as part of their time. Also quite interesting was the focus on Michio Ito and Isamu Noguchi and the influence of Japanese Noh theater on American dance and theater of the early 20th century.

Recommended for fans of Joseph Campbell who also have a strong interest in the history of early modern dance

~review by Larissa Carlson Viana

Written by: Joseph Campbell
New World Library, 2017
pp. 241, $24.95