I reviewed "The Dance" when it first came out. Here's a copy of that article for those who may not have seen it at the time:
by Brad Henderson (privately printed, 2003) $40 + P&P
Hardcover, gold stamped title, sewn binding; 121 half-letter-sized pages, coated stock
This high-production-quality book is, simply, a treatise on the art of cold reading. As those sufficiently experienced with the subject well know, cold reading is both an art and a craft. Mr. Henderson is clearly an experienced practitioner of what he discusses, and it shows. "The Dance" doesn't dwell so much on the detailed mechanics of a reading, and spends little time on the subject of why cold readings work; those looking for this more technical side (i.e., the craft) would be better served by Ian Rowland's now-classic text, "The Full Facts Book of Cold Reading". What Mr. Henderson provides, instead, is a book more focused on the *art* of the reading. And does very well indeed.
The first section ("Considerations", 12pp) offers what may be the best discussion I've yet read on the various ethical issues that are often associated with cold reading. He doesn't shy away from the big questions, and offers a well-presented opinion of why he considers "reading" to be an ethical activity, and under what considerations he believes it not to be so. Those who decry the "dishonesty" of readers would do well to consider his expressed views.
The second section ("Foundations", 26pp) sets the stage for what is to come. He discusses common cold reading myths, addresses the motivations of readers (and to a lesser extent, sitters), investigates methods by which readers can "protect" themselves from the possible negative effects of errors in the statements they make, and touches on dealing with skeptics. The use of a stated "method" (palmistry, Tarot, angels, etc.) as a basis for authenticity is encouraged, though purely intuitive approaches are examined as well.
The third section ("The Dance", 32pp) anchors the work, and provides a concise but fruitful listing of methodological ploys. A particularly useful portion investigates the actual (and perceived) flow of information that takes place during a reading; Mr. Henderson offers a formal model for understanding this flow, and demonstrates how this can be used to improve the perceived quality of the information that is ultimately delivered to the sitter. As the book's title suggests, readings are portrayed here not as authoritative bestowings of hidden knowledge, but as "dances", each involving the reader, the sitter, and (ideally) the method/oracle... all in a dynamic interplay, and all contributing to the effective outcome of the process.
The penultimate section ("Attitudes", 30pp) is divided into two parts, individually addressing the private reading and the "performance reading" (i.e., any in which a third party is involved, even if only by listening to the reading). More time is spent on the latter... a good thing, as this topic has previously received very little attention in the cold reading literature. Several good ideas are offered, with a view to exploiting the presence of such additional people in order to improve the reading. This will be of particular value to those who work "psi parties" or other events where total privacy is not always available (or perhaps even wanted).
A final short section ("Performance Pieces", 11pp) offers two "tricks". Whether this is to please the magician audience (who, let's face it will be buying this book in their fruitless struggle to find the "secret" of cold reading) or not is immaterial. Both effects described are quite good, and certainly useful in appropriate circumstances. The first makes use of a card force that has been previously exploited in the context of readings (I use it myself with Psycards, though in a slightly different way, and to different ends); Mr. Henderson's version is quite nice theatrically, and could no doubt be put to very strong use. The second effect is an excellent illustration of what can be accomplished with the convergence of equivoque and the classic pendulum.
Early in this book, the author offers his own one-word summary of its contents: "listen". More than any other book I have read on cold reading, the process-centric approach advocated here makes it clear why this summary is appropriate. Thus I am encouraged to offer my own one-word summary of this review: "read".
"The Dance" has one unfortunate negative, which will bother some more than others: it suffers badly from the lack of an editor. In addition to a healthy sprinkling of typographical errors, the book is something of a grammatical nightmare; rare is the page that has not one, but a profusion of grammatical mistakes, ranging from the usual apostrophe errors and word confusions to a fairly wholesale ignoring of subject-verb agreement. The more literate reader will find this a painful landscape. It's truly a shame that such a lovingly produced book managed to sidestep this critical production step. [A related aside... If you are planning to write a book, please do what any serious publishing house will insist upon... hire a copy-editor! This doesn't mean asking your friend(s) to proofread it for you, unless one of your friends is an experienced editor. Please don't make the mistake of thinking that you really don't need an editor: you do. If you do not have a current copy of "The Chicago Manual of Style" immediately to hand, you are not an editor. End of discussion.]
With this grammatical caveat, I can happily recommend the purchase of this book. It is a "must read" text for anyone seriously considering the art/craft of cold reading.