J.D. Salinger Liked Dance and Here Is How I Know

January 28, 2010

I met J.D. Salinger around 1982 and visited him several times. He had a collection of old movies he loved to watch. One time he set up his screen and projector for me and watched a Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers movie. After all, the parents in his famous Glass family, Les and Bessie, had been a song-and-dance team in Vaudeville. Also, one of the characters — was it Holden?– talks about seeing a girl on the subway who is wearing a leotard, like a Bennington or Sarah Lawrence girl. But he certainly was not tuned in to the world of dance. When I told him I liked Merce Cunningham because you could see him think when he danced, he practically shuddered and said he would never want to see a dancer think. And if I would stretch my arms or my neck (as is my habit)in his presence, he was appalled. But he was interested in dance, and almost came see me perform one time in Canada. And when I was having doubts about whether to give up teaching for choreography, he encouraged me to choreograph. He said, Don’t listen to anyone else’s criticism. His advice was, “Shoot for the moon.”