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Alexandra

Dance Books #2

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Please continue to post on Paquita's Dance Books thread -- what books about ballet you particularly enjoy -- here. (Ballet books, of course!) The first thread is v-e-r-y long.

Thanks,

alexandra

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A great coffee table style book (lots of wonderful historical photos) that I have fun just opening to any page to look at the photos first and then read something about the dancers is: "The Great Russian Dancers" by Gennady Smakov, A.A.Knopf NY 1984. If you want a beautiful introduction to what I'm sure are universally considered some of the greatest dancers of the late 19th and 20th centuries, this is a wonderful book!! It covers 33 different dancers, both male and female. I found the text interesting but can't comment on its historical accuracy. Photos are spectacular!

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I don't know if these have been mentioned but Allegra Kent's autobiography is wonderful. I don't think I've ever gotten through a book so fast because I just couldn't stop reading it! Also has anyone seen NYCB's book Tributes? I have it and its really good I just wish there were more pictures! Oh well, I'm interested in other people's suggestions.

Lauren

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Well, most of my dance books seem to fall mostly into the NYCB/Balanchine range, and all of my favorites do. My favorite dance book is most definitely Robert Garis' Following Balanchine, though Garis is somewhat overreaching in his interpretation of Balanchine's work sometimes. I also love my two Balanchine bios, one by Bernard Taper and the other by Richard Buckle. They segue all of the phases of his life together excellently. Then there is Balanchine's Ballerinas, by Robert Tracey, which is sort of old and falling apart but still much-cherished. It's essentially a collection of interviews with all of his great muses/instruments, from Danilova to Kistler. Plus wonderful b/w, full-page pictures! Oh, and absolutely indispensable is Nancy Reynolds' Repertory in Review. Now, it is even older than the previous mention, but the absolute best--comprehensive listing of every ballet ever in the repertory of NYCB and its various predecessors (Ballet Society, Ballet Caravan, etc.). It includes the synopses of the ballets, original costume and set credits, original casts, subsequent casts, music, conductor, and critical excerpts from sundry American and international journals. Also some nice articles about NYCB's founding--I believe written by Lincoln Kirstein--, SAB, short George Balanchine bio, and the like. I love this book; it's a prized possession most undoubtedly, and is never left at home if I'm away. It will of course be with me in NYC this summer! Well, I have other dance books, a few nice ABT books and an ABT souvenir book from '95, and a Kirov souvenir book brought to me by a well-traveled friend a few years ago. Too bad it's all in Cyrillic letters. The rest are a silly medley of children's books--a particularly patronizing offering from Darcey Bussell (!)--and things like Allegra Kent's archaic Dancer's Body Book.

Happy reading,

Ruby

[This message has been edited by Ruby (edited May 13, 1999).]

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my favorites are the Kay Ambrose "Pocketbook series, the Talia Mara series 1st steps etc., Coffee Table book "The Magic of Dance" by Dame Margot Fonteyn, I guess I'm telling on myself, most of these I've had for many years =)

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Thanks Ruby smile.gif - I just finished reading the Taper biography - WONDERFUL! I used to have an aversion to biographies, but now a penchant for them... hmmmm (age? wink.gif)

Thanks for the referrals to the Richard Buckle bio - looking forward to it.

Just thought i'd give an additional praise for a book called "Striking a Balance" by Barbara Newman. I read it quite a while back and listed it as one of my recommended books". Just reread it, and WOW! it is even more incredible the second time around. If you liked Balanchine Ballerinas you'd love Striking a Balance, interviews with Doubrovska, Vilsak, Lifar, Kaye, Shearer, LeClercq, Monnefous, Ananiashvili, Christensen, Youskevitch, Grant, etc.. several have "passed-on" since the interviews took place. Maybe you've read it already, but just had to mention this one again.

Much Aloha!

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Lugo, Striking a Balance sounds exactly like what I'm looking for; lately I seem to be in the midst of a shortage of good dance books. I love all of mine, of course, but I've read them and would like to read something without knowing what's ahead. Is the book you mentioned in print, or is it one of those "rare" books? I would be thrilled to find a copy, although even the Barnes & Noble here suffers from a dearth of good dance reads.

Thank you for the recommendation!

Ruby smile.gif

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Lugo, I also like "Striking a Balance" very much. I kept thinking about it during our Swan Lake period, because one of the things I remember about that book was the British ballerinas talking about "Swan Lake" and how difficult it was. I read it wwhen I first discovered ballet, and before I had seen "Swan Lake," so it was odd, indeed! (Barbara Newman also wrote a biography of Antoinette Sibley, but good luck finding it.)

Ruby, it is old, from the mid-'70s, but she did an update a few years ago, with a few new interviews, that was available in paperback.

Have you tried the search engine at Barnes and Noble? The books I have listed on the site is rather minimal. The search engine is helpful for research (you don't have to buy anything to use it!), because if you, say, searched for the Taper biography, it will give you other "suggested" searches, like biographies, dance; or Balanchine; or biographies, ballet, etc.

Alexandra

p.s. They also have a rare books section now, which I found fascinating for browsing. We have a link to that, too.

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Hi Ruby & Alexandra *S* - how i loved rereading it. And yes, it is in print, actually reread the newer edition from 1992. ISBN# 0-87910-154-7 if that helps you at least order a copy. Barbara Newman updated information and included 4 additional interviews in this edition. Also since the first edition in 1982, she says than more than 10 of the dancers she interviewed have passed-on.

Thanks for the tip about the biography of Antoinette Sibley, wish me "Merde" finding it. wink.gif My hubby says i read too fast, and is complaining that it's getting expensive to keep me in reading material. *lol* But i'm loving every minute of it.

Much Aloha

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I also liked "Dancer to Dancer " by Melissa Hadyn

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I too enjoyed the Taper and Buckle biographies of Balanchine, but it seemed to me that both books were unsatisfactory in some respects. Taper's chapters dealing with the last stages of Balanchine's career seemed pretty skimpy to me, and Buckle tends to bounce around from topic to topic without giving his material much shape. I read somewhere (maybe here) that Arlene Croce was working on a biography, and if that's true there's no reason why it shouldn't be definitive. I read Tallchief's autobiography with much interest. Her account of Balanchine's proposal is worth the price of the book. Has anyone mentioned Karsavina's Theatre Street? I liked that very much. There's another book called The Pointe Book, now in its second edition, that has some useful information.

[This message has been edited by dirac (edited May 14, 1999).]

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The last (highly unreliable) rumor I had heard about Croce's book was that it was in limbo. However, that's from a really bad source.

I don't have the Buckle biography, like the Taper and find that Francis Mason's compendium, "I Remember Balanchine" reminds us invaluably just how complex the man was. I did an informal cross-check of the 83 interviews within it to determine which facts seemed consistent. Of the handful I found: Concerto Barocco was once an allegro ballet, where it is now an adagio ballet. The Figure in the Carpet ought to be revived (but is lost). Balanchine and Villella had a problem getting along.

Most everything else was up for grabs, depending upon how he appeared to the interviewer. Whenever I write about Balanchine, I recognize that I have an idealized Balanchine in my mind, symbolic of the choreographic ideal. It tangentially relates to the real man, I suppose! I think recognizing his elusiveness is one way to understand him.

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I find myself, from time to time re-reading Francis Mason's "I Remember Balanchine". These are recollections of dozens of people who knew him and worked with him. Not all of the remembrances are flattering--I find the one by Barbara Walczak particularly poignant. I remember Barbara as a student at SAB and as a dancer with the Company.

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When I was little I used to read "Ballet Shoes." I thought it was great. It's a fiction book but, I think it's just great. It's about three girls who become dancers so they can support their family. When they turn 12 they can each get a liscense to dance for money. It tells a lot about what they went through and how they did on auditions. I think all dancers should read it because it's a wonderful book. Read it!!!!

-Stephanie

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Ballet Shoes is by Noel Streatfield, and it is a very good book. I remember reading that Streatfield got interested in children performers and dancers when she saw Ninette de Valois when she was a child performer dance Dying Swan at some music hall.

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Just wanted to say I agreed with dirac. Karsavina's `Theatre Street' is, to my mind, one of the most fascinating ballet biographies ever written.

Similar books which I also love are Alexandra Danilova's book, `Choura', and Tamara Geva's `Split Seconds' (the latter is mainly about her attempts to be accepted as a student by the Theatre School, but is written with great passion - parts are very moving.) Both of these are good on the difficulties of everyday life after the revolution.

I also enjoyed Nijinska's `Early Memoirs', intersting for what she says about her brother, but VERY interesting on her own early life, with lots of detail about parts and costumes. And then there's Kschessinska's `Dancing in Petersburg' - though this is hard to find - which is surpringingly frank and engaging.

Karsavina is a good choice to read first, however. (After that I became hooked on Russian memoirs!)

-Wendy

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I, too, loved reading Nijinska's Memoirs..it has the scope of a fine Russian novel. By reading all of her descriptions of her brother's dancing, and putting them all together in one long paragraph, you come away with a very good picture of how Nijinsky danced.

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I enjoyed the books by Danilova and Nijinska also. Interesting that these are all by Russian dancers within a generation or so of each other. I think what gives these books much of their strength is the varied background of each author. Karsavina, Danilova, and Nijinska were all women who had seen a lot of the world, and that experience gives their accounts flavor and color.

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