“Oh, how wonderful! How like thought! How like the mind it is!” Helen Keller exclaimed when she experienced dance for the first time in legendary choreographer Martha Graham’s studio. Graham herself saw a parallel between her particular art and all creative endeavors of the mind, in which “there is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action.”
That parallel is what Zadie Smith, one of the great thought-artists of our time, explores in “Dance Lessons for Writers,” found in her altogether fantastic essay collection Feel Free(public library) — the source of Smith’s incisive meditation on the interplay of optimism and despair.