Reviews of biography



Daniel Lewis: A Life in Choreography

and the Art of Dance

Donna H. Krasnow and Daniel E. Lewis.

McFarland and Company, Inc., 2020. 239 pages; $39.95



Internationally renowned dancer, teacher, choreographer,

mentor, benefactor, and author Daniel (Danny) Lewis

declares that “luck” embraces his life’s story. Could it also

have been luck during the summer of 1980 when Donna

Krasnow took her first dance class with Lewis and now,

forty years later, Krasnow—a distinguished dancer, teacher,

choreographer, researcher, and author—would collaborate

with Lewis in writing his biography entitled, Daniel Lewis:

A Life in Choreography and the Art of Dance?

If “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity,”

according to Roman philosopher Seneca, then the

reader is indeed lucky to have Krasnow as the coauthor of

this book. With direct knowledge of the ways in which Lewis’

life has embodied every bit of the discipline, Krasnow was

clearly the person to present this legacy-based biography.

Lewis and Krasnow create a compelling narrative including

his years at the Juilliard School, dancing with the José Limón

Dance Company, staging Limón’s masterpieces around the

world, directing his own company, and serving as Dean of

Dance at New World School of the Arts.

The book includes Lewis’ experience as a producer of

conferences and festivals. “He just always knew how to figure

out what was needed to make something happen and how to

make people feel comfortable in these large settings,” recalls

Teri Weksler—a member of Lewis’ company (106). Not only

did he host outstanding events with thousands of participants,

he threw elaborate parties and offered concerts and

galas. All the while—speaking firsthand as a colleague of

Danny’s at New World School of the Arts—he remained

calm and composed. His motto was “it’s going to be fine.”

One festival with 1,750 guests gave downtown Miami 1.8

million USD in revenue through hospitality sales; Lewis was

able to get entire communities involved in his endeavors.

Rare photographs and interviews by some of the top

artists in dance are included; they reveal Lewis’ impact felt

across the world of dance. “Danny helped all the people

with whom he came into contact” (112) proclaims Matthew

Diamond—a member of Lewis’ company. “His belief in the

ability to make a dream happen was obvious” (49) says

Alice Condodina—former Limón principal dancer. He was

the inspiration behind the foundation of companies as

iconic as Houlihan & Dancers, Battleworks Dance

Company, and Dance St. Louis. Laura Glenn, former

Limón company member, notes that Lewis is widely recognized

as “a great caregiver” (49) and also a creative force in

the José Limón Dance Company. Former student of Lewis’

and Executive Artistic Director of the Thomas Armor

Youth Ballet, Ruth Wiesen remembers Lewis as “enthusiastic

about each and every student” (181). Lewis helped

students “move from classroom to the stage” (183) recalls

Michael Uthoff—former Limón company member. “It was

Danny’s guidance that led me to focus and dedicate myself

to American contemporary dance for the past fifty years”

(122) notes Jim May—founder of the Sokolow Theater/

Dance Ensemble. He “had the puppet strings—in the best

way . . . he was an operator making things happen” (178)—

qualities that Robert Battle jokingly confessed had motivated

him to become the Artistic Director of the Alvin

Ailey American Dance Theater.

The segments of the book are beautifully dovetailed

together—so much so that it was hard to put the book

down. It combines historical references, artistic insights,

and storytelling; it is bound together with Lewis’ witty sense

of humor. It is valuable for educators and students, alike.

Teachers will grasp the value of mentorship. “They (students)

are the ones who are going to matter tomorrow.

And, we (teachers) learn so much from them” (33) noted

Lewis’ mentor, José Limón. The book is an inspiring example

for students to recognize that one achievement scaffolds

the next. Like Lewis, students may very well find that “luck”

could drive their life’s stories, too.

Danny’s luck has clearly resulted from true commitment,

and this book is a testimony to it. Please celebrate

Daniel Lewis by enjoying this captivating biography that

looks at the many roles he has played in the dance world.


Cynthia DuFault, MFA

© 2020 National Dance Education Organization