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Alexandra

Favorite dance books #2

19 posts in this topic

Hello, again.

I have so many favorite dance books I couldn't put them all in.

The first book I bought was Keith Money's book about Margot Fonteyn "The Making of a Legend." I love all of Keith Money's books; this one is like a scrapbook, and it's full of love for Fonteyn. I bought it partly because I had just seen my first performance, with Fonteyn, and partly because it was the only book about ballet in the bookstore. I read it over and over during my first year as a balletomane, although it was difficult, as most of the ballets -- nearly all the ballets -- were unknown to me. (I didn't know much about the '30s and '40s in British ballet then.) I used it as a guide for years. When I'd see the Giselle or Swan Lake of a dancer called "great" and I couldn't find out why, I'd get out those sections in "Legend" again and look at Fonteyn, and compare her to the new Great One I'd just seen, and figure out why the latter was wanting. She never failed me.

Margot, dancers writing about dance offer a perspective that nondancers can't, so the books fascinate me. If they can write well, you get a bonus. If they can't you get information and point of view. Every scrap of real information is valuable. (Now, how to tell the real from the well-intentioned errors, the folk tales and the self-promotion is the problem.)

I love Karsavina from photos; she's one of the dancers I'm going to see first when I get to Heaven. Booked long ago. But I have to admit I didn't love her book, much as I wanted to. I did love, however, Kchessinskaya's memoires ("Dancing in St. Petersburg") because her personality blares forth from every page, as she tells you how kind she was to her rivals (hah!), how she had to ask "Nicky" (the Tsarevitch) to intervene in this or that backstage brawl, how it didn't really matter that Pavlova didn't have turnout, not one little bit -- and how she broke it to her parents that she wanted to leave home to become the Tsarevitch's mistress, and how she got that nice little house from the Grand Duke -- and all the things that make small children think they want to be ballerinas (although I was hardly a child when I read it).

Last word on books for now, and apropos: I remember reading Camille when I was in high school, before I knew what ballet was (but I knew about theater) and thinking that a courtesan was a great job, not because of the flowers and dresses, but because she had box seats at every theater in Paris. Mon dieu! Where does one apply?

alexandra

p.s. Use the search engine at Barnes and Noble on our shop page to find books. You can search by author, title, or subject.

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I agreed with many of the previously mentioned selections. I'm at work so I don't have my bookshelf at the ready but some of my favorite books are the three Arlene Croce collections. I always refer to them before seeing a ballet either for the first time or if I haven't seen it in a while. I wish I could write like her. When I was little, I really thought I could see the ballets just through her words. However, later in her life she got very bitter. Is she still alive?

Another favorite is the Balanchine Muses book. Again, I don't have it in front of me but almost every muse of Balanchine's is interviewed in transcript form with a studio shot and archieve photos. Only Tanaquil Le Clerq is missing. And I believe Diana Adams didn't want to have her picture taken. It goes from Tamara Geva to Darci Kistler. I really love that book.

Another is "I remember Balanchine." edited by Francis Mason. It's sort of funny to read former company members disparaging some of the other dancers. Well, not funny but intriguing. I also enjoyed the somewhat new bios by Tallchief and Kent.

I adore picture books, the latest which is the Romeo and Juliet book with Angel Corella and Paloma Herrera. In January, the NYCB should be putting out a 50th anv. program and a catalogue of their current photo exhibit. I

Dale

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Thank you Jane for the information about Karsavina's book and the bit of film with her in class. I will try to find that.

There is a document (I don't know if it was on film or video originally because I taped it from television) called "Portrait of Giselle" where Sir Anton Dolin can be seen talking with Tamara Karsavina (very briefly) and Olga Spessivtseva (amongst others). It's an hour and a half document with all the great interpreters of Giselle.

Olivier, as soon as the tape of Evelyn Hart was on sale I purchased it. It is very well done (The National Film Board of Canada usually does very good work) and I love it, but thank you.

Dale, if you love the book about Balanchine's Ballerinas there is also a video edition of this. It's a 90 minutes long program with interviews and film excerpts of: Mary Ellen Moylan, Maria Tallchief, Melissa Hayden, Allegra Kent, Merrill Ashley and Darci Kistler.

Margot

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hello and welcome back, Dale - Hadn't read you in awhile, and I missed you! Have you been to many Nutcrackers?

I'm a fan of all your choices. I read "After Images" once or twice a year for ten years, until I'd practically memorized it. I especially found the essays at the back of the book useful. I must say that I did not always agree with her, but I always took her seriously. So many of the things she wrote about in the '70s and '80s have come true. I particularly remember her writing about the Royal when they came here in the mid-'80s, after running through a list of things that were wrong with the company, saying, "But what's the use? It's like straightening the pictures in a house that's been bombed." I thought that harsh of her at the time, thought, "Oh, come on. They're not that bad." I didn't see what she saw until the early '90s, when they came with a new Swan Lake and a new "improved" dancing style.

Yes, she did get bitter, perhaps, but that happens when everything you loves dies on you. She is very much alive, still going, and writing a book about Balanchine's ballets.

I also loved "Balanchine's Muses" -- the photographs as well as the text. When you get dancers talking about dancing, it's the best of all.

While we're on Balanchine books, I also learned an enormous amount from Nancy Reynolds' Repertory in Review; I only wish it had been updated, if only until Balanchine's death. I poured over that book, trying to figure out his way of categorizing dancers and casting.

alexandra

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Hi, I've been on vacation. What I love about Croce's reviews are that they were a record of a performance. Many reviews use about 70 percent to explain the history of the ballet and the form and the rest on the dancers, as if wasn't important. Such as, "The swan queen was danced by Kyra Nichols, ably partnered by Damien Woetzel." I want to know about the quality of the performance, what choices the dancers made, etc.. Croce did that.

To Margo -- I have the tape and viewed it about 100 times. I know Suzanne Farrell chose not to participate because she was working on a movie, eventually done by the same director and producer. And she was mentioned by Tallchief and Ashley with a clip of her dancing Terpsichore to Peter Martins' Apollo. However, there was just one brief still photo of Patricia McBride in Raymonda Variations. Her place as a Balanchine muse is sometimes lost. She's also one of the few Balanchine top dancers not to write a book (to return this post to written word).

-- Dale, who has been Nutcrackering it lately.

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Good evening,

I am new to this board, and I would first of all like to tell you all how greatly I have enjoyed reading your posts.

And on to the books subject.

Karen Kain's autobiography "Movement Never Lies" is what got me curious about ballet in the first place. Some passages are extremely insightful, and after reading this book, I could not help it - I had to investigate.

This is how I started reading more and more. Autobiographies are always interesting, even if sometimes the quality of the writing is not exactly stellar. Yet there is a certain amount of soul in it which might be difficult to have transcribed by another person. I have read books by or about several dancers, including Suzanne Farrell, Maria Tallchief, Evelyn Hart, amongst others. This is how the "Balanchine" entry in my brain expanded a little from the initial "Russian. Ballet choreographer." ("Balanchine's Ballerinas" was quite a good read.) I started watching TV, where I first saw Sylvie Guillem - who does the word "summum" some justice. I then proceeded to watch all of the ballet videos which I could get my hands on. Which brought me to Natalia Makarova's Swan Lake. It was all one big chain reaction.

Celia, thanking the impulse she had to borrow Kain's book in the first place.

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Hello, Celia, and welcome. I'm fascinated that you'd buy a book about a dancer when you weren't a dance fan! You're the reader all publishers want to reach!

What made you buy that book?

I found your "career path" through ballet interesting, too. You have good instincts!

alexandra

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Alexandra, I really agree with what you said about

Nancy Reynold's "Repertory in review". A friend of mine gave it to me

(and I'm very very very grateful for that), and since then I've read it again

and again. I wish too there were an updated version...

And reading it is all the more frustrating as I'm very unlikely to see

most of the ballets which are listed.

And of course, I'd love to see a similar book about the Paris Opera Ballet. The task would

probably be harder, since the history of the company is longer (and I'm not sure that all the

archives were kept), but that really would be interesting.

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Alexandra, thank you for your welcome.

I don't really know what made me get that book. I was looking for something new to read. Biographies are interesting a great deal of the time. I'm into arts in general, and the book was on display. The picture on the cover was beautiful (it would be hard not to find most ballet pictures fascinating - they really do stand out,) and I just picked it up and looked at the blurb in the back. Her life seemed interesting, and I guess I took it from there.

About my ballet path, I think that I was really lucky. If I remember correctly, the first ballet segment which I saw after reading Kain's book was Sylvie Guillem in the White Swan pas de deux and in the Don Quichotte pas de deux. It would be hard to get much better than that.

Celia

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If you are a fan of Keith Money, I would urge you to try to track down his book on the figure skater John Curry (Curry's name is the title of the book). It has an excellent text, interesting pictures, and is one of -- no, it's the only -- aesthetically intelligent book on figure skating I've encountered so far. I also enjoyed the most recent book on Fonteyn and Nureyev. The photographs are not all that exceptional, but the text, again, is good, and with camera subjects like Fonteyn and Nureyev it's hard not to come up with something at least worth looking at.

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I've been trying to find Darcy Bussell's book ("Life in Dance", right?) and have had no luck. The only source I find is Dance Book, Ltd. in London and the price is hefty because of shipping. Can anyone help?

Thanks

Giannina

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Giannina,

Try www.amazon.co.uk

The price there is

"Life in Dance" 14.39 pounds/$23.84

Air mail post 4.95 pounds/$ 8.20

Total 19.34 pounds/$32.04

(Based on today's exchange rate of $1.6566/pound)

I don't know of any U.S. sellers.

~Steve

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Thanks, Steve. That's a bit cheaper than Dance Book, Ltd.

Giannina

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I’m surprised that no-one has yet mentioned "Early Memoirs" by Bronislava Nijinska. What a wonderful account of a truly exceptional family! I'm still not yet quite finished with it, but I need to say how much I enjoy it!! This makes Nijinsky (and his family) come alive for me. I only thought of him as "a legend", as an incomparable dancer whom I would never see in flight even in still pictures (tell me where if such exist). Through her very touching story, Bronia, Nijinsky and also their mother Eleanora now exist in my mind as real beings. Nijinsky as Petrouchka in photographs (still marvelously expressive by and of him) has been replaced in my mind’s eye by a most wonderfully airborne Nijinsky the bluebird. Nijinska’s descriptions of him performing the blue bird pas de deux are unbelievably exciting even to a novice. I am so glad I chose to read this book as one of my first ballet books. Most long-time ballet lovers must have read this already. What are other’s impressions of it?

A couple questions:

Is Bronia considered an exceptional choreographer? I admire her greatly from this account translated by her daughter. Can someone tell me whether the production of "Les Noces" scheduled for late February by NYC Ballet is likely to be similar or the same as her original choreography?

Also, does anyone know whether the city called Vilno mentioned often in Bronia's account is the same as the city of Vilnius, Lithuania?

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Hi, Paul -

Don't know about Vilno/Vilnius, but Bronislava Nijinska is absolutely a great choreographer. There's a good video of her Les Noces with Paris Opera Ballet. I think it's Paris Opera Dances Diaghilev. It was extremely influential. Ashton revived it (and Les Biches) for the Royal in the 1960s and Nijinska was sort of "rediscovered." Robbins' Les Noces for NYCB was choreographed -- I'm pretty sure I read this -- before he knew that the original could be revived. The NYCB version uses the same score and the same idea, but isn't the same ballet.

A few years ago the Joffrey revived Les Noces -- and did it very well, I thought. DTH also revived it, and danced Les Biches a few years ago. Neither of those are on video, as far as I know.

I love Les Noces (in case you haven't guessed.) It's still the most "modern" ballet I've ever seen.

alexandra

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I think that Vilno is the same as Vilnius (in Yiddish, for example, Vilnius is called "Vilne" - "the Jerusalem of Lithuania"...)

I agree about "Les Noces". I've only seen it in the "Paris Dances Diaghilev" (with Elisabeth Platel, Kader Belarbi, Jean-Yves Lormeau and

Francoise Legree), and wish to see it on stage someday. The Ballet du Nord in Roubaix

(France) will dance it within a few weeks, in a Stravinsky program also including

Maryse Delente's (their director) version of "The Rite of Spring".

The Paris Opera Ballet also restaged Nijinska's "Les Biches" and

"Le Train Bleu" a few seasons ago. I haven't seen "Les Biches", unfortunately it was staged only

one season, but their "Train Bleu" (blue train) was filmed in a "Picasso and dance" program (Picasso had made the stage curtain). It's a much lighter

ballet than "Les Noces", pleasant to see (with a lovely Nicolas Le Riche as "le beau gosse" in the video), but not as great as "Les Noces".

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For those interested in Nijinskiana, Joan Acocella has written an interesting article on Nijinsky's career and diary in the current issue of The New York Review of Books. I would also recommend Lincoln Kirstein's book Nijinsky Dancing, not easy to find but well worth a search. I don't think there is any other dancer whose quality comes across so forcefully from photographs.

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Regarding Vilno/Wilno - that's the Polish version of Vilnius. The Russian is Vilna. Remember, the Nijinsky family was Polish.

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did anyone else read the Drina series by Jean Estoril? Its a fictional account of a young girl (Audrina Adamo, better known as Drina Adams) making her way through as a student and then as a professional. It's all highly unlikely but I think its a sweet series anyway and I used to read it constantly when I was younger...

Just thought it deserved a mention since its written with love for dance.

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