Dance with an Oxford Accent
Barnes, Clive, Dance Magazine
Once, someone very unkindly suggested that my own highly distinguished alma mater in England was chiefly proficient at sending its students out into the world with a totally unjustifiable arrogance and a certain proficiency at handling reference books and simple research material. Well, for myself, you couldn't meet a less arrogant person in a day's march--I will in front of a shrinking violet!--but I think I am rather good with basic reference material. I learned very early on--yes, perhaps it was at university--that shameless skill which all journalists shamefully need to acquire, of becoming an instant expert on almost any subject within, say, twenty minutes of entering an appropriate library. It's admittedly a small skill, and, yes, perhaps a rather arrogant one, but it has served me generously over the years.
Now in dance and theater I have my own pretty complete library. I am assured that in these days of the World Wide Web, such personal reference sources are unnecessary, even redundant. Maybe. But simply by knowing where to look and, quite often, remembering my alphabet, I can find out or confirm most dance facts before your average Internet provider could get you online. There is still some terrain where donkeys travel faster than racing cars. Despite what you may have heard to the contrary, there is no CD-ROM of an encyclopedia as easy, fast and efficient to use and manipulate as the basic encyclopedia itself. On the other hand, the CD-ROM is cheaper and takes up less shell' space.
In any case, for reference sources on dance there is no CD-ROM available, and while you can certainly browse and research the Web for specific purposes in the way of articles and various background material, there is no quick fix for dance knowledge, except in the most general sense. Yes, you can almost instantly find out how old Merce Cunningham is, where he was born, where he started to dance, etc. But try to do the same for James Cunningham and you would find it much more difficult. Which is why we need the specialist dance shelf.
Recently, a few large-scale dance reference books have been published. Most people, apart from dance journalists, would not own them but refer to them in libraries, notably the six-volume Oxford Encyclopedia of Dance, published in 1998, and the slightly earlier two-volume International Dictionary of Ballet and the …
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Publication information: Article title: Dance with an Oxford Accent. Contributors: Barnes, Clive - Author. Magazine title: Dance Magazine. Volume: 75. Issue: 3 Publication date: March 2001. Page number: 126. © 1999 Dance Magazine, Inc. COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group.
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