Edwin Denby: on Looking
February 11, 2015
“I am interested at the moment in recalling to you how it looks when one sees dancing as non-professionals do, in the way you yourselves I suppose look at pictures, at buildings, at political history or at landscapes or at strangers you pass on the street. Or as you read poetry.
In other words the way you look at daily life or at art for the mere pleasure of seeing, without trying to put yourself actively in it, without meaning to do anything about it. I am talking about seeing what happens when people are dancing, seeing how they look. Watching them and appreciating the beauty they show. Appreciating the ugliness they show if that’s what you see. Seeing this is beautiful, this ugly, this is nothing as far as I can see. As long as you pay attention there is always something going on, either attractive or unattractive, but nobody can always pay attention, so sometimes there is nothing as far as you can see, because you have really had enough of seeing and quite often there is very little, but anyway you are looking at people dancing, and you are seeing them while they dance.”
—excerpt from Edwin Denby’s 1965 essay, “Dancers, Buildings and People in the Streets”