Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2012-11-05
- Reviewer: Staff
Traditions of dance and folklore have long been tied to changing seasons and agricultural cycles, and so too have women been linked throughout history to the fertility of the natural world. Basing her investigation on linguistics, archeological evidence, and folklore itself, Barber (Women's Work) explores how the relationship between dance and women has developed over the ages in Europe. She explains that the advent of calendars and holidays were initially intended to aid in agrarian planning; then she focuses on the women who were celebrated and revered during these holidays. They took the form of fairies, mermaids, nymphs, and more, and in their ritual incarnation—whether in art or performance—they were ornamented in silks, skirts, beads, and flora, and could curse or bless the upcoming agricultural season. Rich with anecdotes and compelling explanations of the origin of many modern customs (such as throwing rice at a bride), Barber's is an informative and amusing read, often bringing together many diverse sources—traditional stories, illustrations of artifacts, and aspects of popular culture—into an illuminating whole that will serve as a nice introduction for those unfamiliar with the topic, and a valuable reference for scholars of European dance and folklore. 150 illus. and photos, 9 maps. (Feb.)