Original jacket design for Edwin Denby's book Dancers, Buildings and People in the Street, a compilation of his dance criticism published in 1965. The title conveys the breadth of Denby's interests and his passion for observing movement, which led Douglas Dunn to describe him as "the ultimate perceiver." Denby was friendly with poets and painters of the "New York School," including Frank O'Hara, who contributed the forward to this book.
Born in Tianjin, China, the son of an American diplomat, Edwin Denby (1903-1983) was the most influential American critic of his era. He was educated at Hotchkiss and Harvard, but first became interested in dance while studying in Vienna. He attended the Dalcroze-based Hellerau-Laxenburg school, danced at the State Theater in Darmstadt, and later as Clare Eckstein's partner-collaborator in Berlin. Returning to New York, he wrote his first criticism for Modern Music in 1936. In 1942-1945 he took over the dance column of the New York Herald Tribune, replacing a mobilized Walter Terry. After the war, he contributed essays to magazines and other publications. A poet who was close to the painters and poets of the New York School, he wrote with easy erudition and a friendly, confidential tone, concentrating on specific qualities of movement and the meanings that arise from them. "He was the first writer," Arlene Croce has said, "to give a clear account of the dynamic process of choreography—to capture in precise imagery the means by which dancing . . . exerts its power over the imagination."