What critics are saying about America Dancing: From the Cakewalk to the Moonwalk
"[America Dancing is] valuable, original, refreshing, wide-ranging... Ms. Pugh's writing is excellent, and the book is mind opening. To an invaluable extent, it's about the influence of African-Americans on American dance... The breadth and wealth of information often dazzle... This book alters and enriches American dance history."
"A poet herself, Pugh is especially attuned to the many ways meaning can encase other meanings and histories other histories... Pugh keenly translates a silent dialogue that has been unfolding across stages for decades."
"[Pugh] doesn't just examine dance history as a scholar, she feels it, is excited by it, and shares her excitement with her readers. She is also a keen cultural observer... America Dancing is an important entry into the literature of American dance history. It deserves recognition as a classic."
"Audiences saw their own dreams incarnated in movement on stage and screen, and if those dreams weren't always fulfilled, they left us with extraordinary moments of joy and transcendence... America Dancing pays eloquent tribute to that historical tradition, and to the vision of a freer future that set generations of feet in motion."
"...an elegant and informative chronicle of the dancers’ divergent backgrounds, the musical genres and themes on which they drew, and the degree to which they borrowed (or stole) from one another and crossed racial lines to captivate and, on occasion challenge, their audiences. Pugh provides fascinating and at times surprising examples of the creative exchange that has characterized dance in America."
"Although Pugh's scholarship is considerable, she is writing not for a scholarly but for a general audience.... the author has a dancer's grace in the flow of her prose... Pugh gracefully dances the fine line between critic and fan."
"One of the great pleasures of the book is its masterful descriptions of dance's political significance... In much of the dance that shaped America, the performers were inventing ways of moving that both documented and disturbed the country's confinement of bodies to racial groups."
"[America Dancing] provides scholars of American history a new way to understand cultural borrowing across racial lines in the twentieth century."
"Pugh handles dance as an art form and its historical context with equal deftness... she also describes [her subjects'] dancing so vividly that readers will want to see the dances themselves..."
"As signifying dancers, men and women fly out of this deep, long-nurtured book. In clear and sensual prose, Megan Pugh has fashioned a history of modern America in gestures and movement. The pages never hold still."
—Greil Marcus, author of Mystery Train and The History of Rock 'n' roll in Ten Songs
“With her locomotive prose, virtuosic analysis, and acrobatic storytelling, Megan Pugh brings America's most dazzling dancers stair-tapping and moonwalking back to life. With profound historical insight, she also shows how these gravity-defying heroes made their highwire crossings – between ‘high’ and ‘low’ taste, between classes and races – only look like a cakewalk. America Dancing is more exhilarating, and more revealing, than cultural history has a right to be.”
—John Beckman, author of American Fun: Four Centuries of Joyous Revolt
"This history sizzles, glides, soars, skitters, hammers, taps, and leaps through decades as well as diverse dance forms, from the worlds of cinema to Broadway, ballet and beyond. An exciting, important book!"
—Peggy and Murray Schwartz, authors of The Dance Claimed Me: A Biography of Pearl Primus