I first saw Antony Tudor’s ballet of 1942, Pillar of Fire, on television. It was aired in 1973—a “Dance in America” broadcast of American Ballet Theatre—and Sallie Wilson danced the lead role of Hagar, a young woman who makes a rash move and feels the full force of her town, her family, her body, and her conscience descend. I watched it in Arlington Heights, Illinois, with my younger sisters. We were cultured kids, no question. But in the 1970s, everyone, to a certain extent, was cultured. For instance, Monday nights in Chicago and its suburbs were devoted to the movies of Ingmar Bergman, shown in a televised series introduced by the Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert. Because my sisters and I had piano lessons on Monday nights, plinking away in turn, each of us missed a half hour of each movie. But what a brew, the shades-of-gray women of Bergman—daughters, virgins, spinsters, wives—and the Old World...


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