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Agnes de Mille

  • Ballet technique is arbitrary and very difficult. It never becomes easy; it becomes possible.

  • I learned three important things in college — to use a library, to memorize quickly and visually, to drop asleep at any time given a horizontal surface and fifteen minutes. What I could not learn was to think creatively on schedule.

  • No trumpets sound when the important decisions of our life are made. Destiny is made known silently.

  • There is something fearfully strengthening about cutting free even if the ties bandage the heart itself.

  • To make up a dance, I still need, as I needed then, a pot of tea, walking space, privacy and an idea.

  • ... the choreographic process is exhausting. It happens on one's feet after hours of work, and the energy required is roughly the equivalent of writing a novel and winning a tennis match simultaneously.

  • I had had to learn the difference between the bearable fatigue and the unbearable, the fatigue of fear. The first can be cured by a night's sleep; the second kills.

  • Theater people are always pining and agonizing because they're afraid that they'll be forgotten. And in America they're quite right. They will be.

    • Agnes de Mille,
    • in Jane Howard, "The Grande Dame of Dance," Life ()
  • A good education is usually harmful to a dancer. A good calf is better than a good head.

    • Agnes de Mille,
    • news item ()
  • The practice mirror is to be used for the correction of faults, not for a love affair, and the figure you watch should not become your dearest friend.

    • Agnes de Mille,
    • in Atlantic ()
  • When you perform ... you are out of yourself — larger and more potent, more beautiful. You are for minutes heroic. This is power. This is glory on earth. And it is yours, nightly.

    • Agnes de Mille,
    • in The New York Times ()
  • [On the son of Rebecca West and H.G. Wells:] Anthony West ... looks very like his father, but is much more gracious — he could hardly be less.

  • ... great artists can be uncertain. Of course they are while strugggling to find solutions. Tolstoi's scripts are almost indecipherable. Emily Dickinson provided four or more alternates for every word; Beethoven wrestled with endings to the point of exhaustion; in our day Jerome Robbins and his lack of decision are a byword in the dance profession. But all of these knew very well what they did not want, and what they did not want was the current coin, the well-worn usage. What they wanted was something newly experienced, and therefore unknown and hard to attain.

  • No white man uses his feet the way an Indian does. He talks to the earth.

    • Agnes de Mille,
    • in Newsweek ()
  • The truest expression of a people is in its dances and its music.

    • Agnes de Mille,
    • in New York Times Magazine ()
  • If you want to understand a nation, look at its dances and listen to its folk songs — don't pay any attention to its politicians.

    • Agnes de Mille,
    • in Alan F. Pater and Jason R. Pater, What They Said in 1977 ()
  • Living is a form of not being sure, not knowing what's next or how. The moment you know how you begin to die a little. The artist never entirely knows. We guess. We may be wrong, but we take leap after leap in the dark.

    • Agnes de Mille,
    • in Carol Easton, No Intermissions: The Life of Agnes de Mille ()
  • Friends die one by one, but so, thank God, do enemies.

    • Agnes de Mille,
    • in Carol Easton, No Intermissions: The Life of Agnes de Mille ()
  • The universe lies before you on the floor, in the air, in the mysterious bodies of your dancers, in your mind. From this voyage no one returns poor or weary.

    • Agnes de Mille,
    • in Judy L. Hasday, Agnes de Mille ()
  • The creative urge is the demon that will not accept anything second-rate.

    • Agnes de Mille,
    • in Judy L. Hasday, Agnes de Mille ()
  • Dancing is such a despised and dishonored trade that if you tell a doctor or a laywer you do choreography he'll look at you as if you were a hummingbird. Dancers don't get invited to visit people. It is assumed a boy dancer will run off with the spoons and a girl with the head of the house.

    • Agnes de Mille,
    • in Jane Howard, "The Grande Dame of Dance," Life ()

Agnes de Mille, U.S. dancer, choreographer

(1905 - 1993)

Full name: Agnes George de Mille.