Seibert generously invites both the famous and nearly forgotten into his pages, making a case for why each of them matters as an artist. This is a big tent approach to dance history, and it’s an admirable one.
In his quest to redress thwarted careers, he at times drifts from the analytic into the archival. Indeed, as the book clocks in at over 600 pages, including coverage of tap overseas, some will guiltily wonder whether tap bears quite so very much a volume of attention...Seibert, though, does a sterling job of telling the story of where tap has been, and why it matters.
What the Eye Hears is much more than a roll-call of tap stars. Mr. Seibert also stages a challenge-dance with the big themes entwined in tap’s history—among much else, the semiotics of minstrelsy and the constant tussle between old folkways and the new. His critical footwork dazzles.
Other genres that were once central to Western art have dropped off the shelf...The same could happen to tap. In that case, it will go down in the history books as a marvellous thing that grew and died under certain historical conditions, mostly in the twentieth century. And Seibert’s book will serve as a noble testimonial.