JOURNAL OF DANCE EDUCATION
Journal of Dance Education
Published Online: Oct 2020
“Daniel Lewis: A Life in Choreography
and the Art of Dance”
Donna H. Krasnow &
Daniel E. Lewis
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
"Loved your review. You really captured what the book is about.
Thanks, Danny" — Daniel Lewis, Author, President of Miami Dance Futures & Founding Dean of Dance, New World School of the Arts