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Rare Ballet Books


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#1 Giannina

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Posted 13 August 1999 - 09:34 AM

An interesting article in this morning's Los Angeles Times about the sale of some rare ballet books. Find it at: http://www.calendarlive.com/HOME/CALENDARLIVE/
CALENDAR/t000071955.html://http://www.calendarlive.com/HOME/CA...t000071955.html

Giannina

[This message has been edited by alexandra (edited September 04, 1999).]

#2 Juliet

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Posted 13 August 1999 - 12:24 PM

There has been an interesting discussion on ballet.co.uk about the sale and dispersal of the Richardson collection. As a librarian, I find it appalling.

#3 Alexandra

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Posted 13 August 1999 - 12:33 PM

Yes. As a nonlibrarian but lover of books, I find it appalling. Thank you, Juliet.

I posted several lengthy quotes from the catalogue on [url="http://"http://www.ballet.co.uk"]www.ballet.co.uk[/url] If you're interested, go to the Update page, click on the link for Postings (if you've never been there). I wasn't sure how much interest there would be here, as it's a British collection.

The short, sad story is that Philip Richardson spent literally a lifetime gathering all the books (first editions, of course) in existence on teaching, from the ballet du cour of the 16th century to the early 19th century. The material on British dancing -- country dancing as well as social dancing and classical dancing -- is definitive. Now, why would Richardson, founder of the magazine Dancing Times and one of the founders of the Royal Academy of Dancing, donate such a collection to the RAD, an institution devoted to training classical dancers? Everyone who reads this board will figure that one out very quickly, I'm sure, but the point seems to have eluded one David Watchman (a lovely Dickensian name, under the circumstances), the Chief Executive of the RAD.

I have the catalogue. It's not for the likes of us. Except for a very few items, the price tags are in the four and five figures (for individual items).

The RAD doesn't give a reason for dumping the collection. The money raised is to go to their scholarship fund.

Alexandra

#4 Guest_Suzanne_*

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Posted 13 August 1999 - 01:03 PM

I'm sure I will catch XXX from all of you when I say this, but as a librarian, this is exactly what you do with material when no one is using it. Librarians have to be business people as well. You offer it to someone who will use it, and will pay big bucks for it.

Just read some of the posts from Ballet.co. If the RAD made promises to the collector that everything would be kept, then it does stink, but if they didn't...


[This message has been edited by Suzanne (edited August 13, 1999).]

[This message has been edited by Suzanne (edited August 13, 1999).]

#5 Alexandra

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Posted 13 August 1999 - 02:46 PM

Doesn't the "Royal" imply that the RAD has some government protection and is above the commercial fray? That's number one. Secondly, it's part of the Academy's job to insure that the collection was being used, that its own students saw the collection (I don't mean that I think 16-year-olds will curl up with Menestrier, but knowing that it's there and looking at those lithographs and especially knowing about the English books, in this instance, should be part of their education. It is in other places. I mentioned Copenhagen yesterday. I've heard from dancers that this is still done in Russia and in Paris. In Copenhagen and Russia, at least, I know that choreographers consult these materials. Not every day, but when they do a new production of a classic, or even a contemporary work. There are several British ballets that draw on country dance material. Finally, I haven't read Richardson's will, but I do know other people who've donated collections, and part of the process is to be sure that whoever you select actually wants the gift and will take care of it. Usually there are provisions for exactly how the collection is to be stored (under glass, dusted twice a year, etc.) Knowing the time and the morals and ethics of the time that Richardson made his will, I would be very surprised if there was anything but the expectation that this was a gift made in perpetuity, so I'm very much on the "it stinks" side. Libraries, any institutions, really, exist to guard the past for the future. The medieval monks and classical literature is the obvious example, but one of the reasons why libraries (and again, this is not your corner public library) have collections like this one is because they know that people have used it in the past and, some day, they'll use it in the future. I would also note that I've asked several British writers if they knew what this collection contained or if it was available to the public, and they either didn't, or said they thought it was very hard to get access to it. If you keep things locked up in an attic, you can't complain when they're not used. (Hope you don't read this as "catching XXX, Suzanne Posted Image; it's not intended that way.)

Alexandra

#6 cargill

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Posted 13 August 1999 - 03:15 PM

As another librarian, I would say that one of the duties is preservation, and maintaining things of value, unless you are a very small branch library basically stocking bestsellers. There is a wonderful story (I suppose it is true) about the Bodlian discarding the First Folio because it had been replaced.

#7 Francis Timlin

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Posted 13 August 1999 - 03:18 PM

In the instance of the RAD, unfortunately not. As I mentioned on the UK newsgroup, the RAD is a *very* commercial operation and the current administration is very oriented to the bottom line. They would never qualify for 501©(3) status in the U.S. I could give you examples of Mr. Watchman's callousness toward longtime RAD teachers (a summarily fired U.S. Administrator, for one) that would make your teeth ache. Such a move is entirely in character for someone who has never been a dancer, a dance teacher, or had any other serious or noteworthy commitment to the arts and who has demonstrated abject disregard toward those who have dedicated their lives to the cause of promoting the RAD. The Richardson collection is emblematic of the problems emanating from the top at the RAD today. As to the proposed purpose of the funds (student scholarships), this is very much needed in an organization that extracts tribute from both students and teachers at very nearly every turn. I say all of this as a longtime follower and supporter of numerous RAD teachers who work very diligently to provide the best training for their students as outlined by the RAD, which, in itself, is an excellent syllabus. I do wish, however, that the Board of the RAD would get someone in charge who understood the concept of *service* to its constituents (including making the constituents aware of the availability of resources such as the Richardson collection) instead of locking it up and then selling it to the highest bidder.

#8 dirac

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Posted 13 August 1999 - 03:34 PM

I'm touched by Richardson's innocent faith in RAD by donating the collection without, apparently, any legal caveats about its preservation or ultimate disposal. This is a horrible story. I also note in the LA Times artice that the dealer says he tried to interest various libraries and they nixed it, apparently on the grounds that nobody's interested enough in this really old dance stuff to justify the investment. I think this is even worse, and shows you just how much (or how little) these institutions regard dance history.

[This message has been edited by dirac (edited August 13, 1999).]

#9 Guest_Suzanne_*

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Posted 13 August 1999 - 03:55 PM

This move on their part will certainly be cause for many to not donate their treasures to RAD. Do they mention financial troubles (government funded or not)? How could they escape the cold, hard, financial reality of the arts environment today? Valued at nearly half a million, I wonder what was saved by selling the works.

Has anyone electronically knocked on the doors of the library. I'm sure the "outraged librarians" at the RAD are anxious to speak.

#10 Juliet

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Posted 13 August 1999 - 03:56 PM

Well, I have worked both sides of this issue (having made my living in collection development/acquisitions.) Libraries are businesses, I agree, Suzanne, but I have to (rather violently, I'm afraid) disagree with you on this one.

Richardson devoted years and years to this collection; the RAD had a long history of dance education and training; ergo he donated the collection. This is like putting a false front on a beautiful Georgian building and then wondering why no one is interested in seeing it any longer...

Bottom line? Business like any other? I ask you... In twenty years they will be squeeking about how dance training in Britain has eroded. Well, how are they supposed to learn? Videos?

I devoutly hope someone in this country buys it, or if not sold in entirety (with these figures, doubtful) that the purchasers are wise enough to give the materials to libraries who will not be so cavalier with the legacy contained therein.

#11 Alexandra

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Posted 13 August 1999 - 05:54 PM

What Francis said about the RAD could apply to many institutions (hospitals spring to mind) today, I'm afraid -- that they're run by people who have no direct involvement with the art, but a great deal of interest in money. (If anyone is interested in what can happen when These People take over an institution and has the patience for long articles, I refer you to the four-part "Bournonville in Hell" in the Archives (in the Attic) on the main site. It's an account of what happened in Copenhagen when the Bottom Liners took on the Royal Danish Ballet. A very condensed version of this sad tale by the way, appears in the latest edition of the Canadian publication Dance International.)

Anyway, for the R.A.D., the next step is obviously to take the untalented who can come up with the fees over those with a gift for teaching but little cash; that should do wonders for the country's teaching cadre. Come to think of it, they could probably make a lot of money actually selling the children over at White Lodge, but perhaps that idea is a bit ahead of its time.

Alexandra

[This message has been edited by alexandra (edited August 13, 1999).]

#12 Guest_Suzanne_*

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Posted 04 September 1999 - 01:21 PM

Can you tell me more about Moira Goff? What are they saying about her?

#13 Alexandra

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Posted 04 September 1999 - 02:24 PM

Suzanne, you might want to go to Bruce Marriott's site -- [url="http://"http://www.ballet.co.uk"]www.ballet.co.uk[/url] -- where there is a LOT of discussion about this. Bruce actually typed in the press release from the RAD (which basically says Goff is not credible; I'm being polite). He's also typed in a letter printed in the Dancing Times which -- well, attacks is probably too strong a word, but.....

I hope you can read Goff's article in Dance Now (and a letter questioning the sale by Peter Barrett of the Laban Centre). It's very solid. The RAD sounds like a "I've never heard of Monica Lewinsky and besides, she's lying?" response, to me.

Alexandra

#14 Ann

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Posted 04 September 1999 - 03:11 PM

Alexandra

I don't think there would be any point in alerting the tabloids to this extraordinary saga. It's hardly their cup of tea. But I did my best with the 'broadsheets' - I alerted both 'The Times' and the'Independent' on Thursday and was thanked politely by both, but so far nothing has appeared. Perhaps, sadly, this story is only of real interest to us ballet enthusiasts (though any good journalist could certainly make a sizzling general-interest piece).

But I'm with you on this one. Why <i>has<i> no-one demanded a full explanation from the RAD?


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