canbelto

Keith Money's Anna Pavlova: Her Life and Art

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I was prompted by an old thread to get a copy of Keith Money's biography of Anna Pavlova, and got MUCH more than I bargained for. I expected -- I don't know what I expected, but what I got was a monster-sized coffee-table book filled to the brim with rare and beautiful photographs, and a loving in-depth biography of this dancer's every move, from her first performance of Sleeping Beauty to her meteoric rise to the top at the Mariinsky to her tragic untimely death. :rofl:

Warning: the book is very heavy, very dense, but obviously a huge labor of love, and it's a shame that it's OOP. If you see a copy on Amazon or elsewhere, GET IT. By the way, Money's book uses contemporary reviews to dispel some common myths about Pavlova. For one, although she didn't have the flashy bravura of the Italian trained dancers or Mathilde Kschessinska, she was considered a strong technician, and (didn't know this) an excellent turner who interpolated pirouettes and fouettes into her performances. It's really a lovely book.

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Thanks for your suggestion. I will keep an eye out for this book.

Renata

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The best thing about the book is maybe the chronicle of Anna Pavlova's years at the Mariinsky, where she started out as a corphyee and shot to the top in no time. A few other noteworthy, hardly-ever-mentioned facts: Anna Pavlova was a big part of the infamous strike that ended with Sergei Legat slitting his throat. Her major supporter in the theater was none other than Marius Petipa, who was eventually barred from even entering the theater. She was a fan of Isadora Duncan.

The politics of the theatre in that time are carefully chronicled by Money, from the change in management to the almost ridiculous overload of talent around the turn of the century at the MT.

And then there's the stunning fact that Pavel Gerdt was still dancing Solor when he was 60.

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w/ regard to the book's heft, in some correspondence with me, K.Money expressed his frustration that the tome's text, and its often fresh research about AP's life and career, tends to be 'lost' in the photo spreads and overall 'design' of the knopf production. he hoped and expected that a smaller scale, second printing might be done w/ a focus on the text over the photos and thus be easier to have on hand for accessing its data.

as we know this secondary publication did not come to pass, much to KM's disappointment.

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It's a wonderful book, a labor of love in every way. I can understand Money's wishes, however - it is a large, heavy book even by coffee table standards. But the photographs are really stunning and I wouldn't be without them. She was a remarkable camera subject.

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I gave it as a present to a former teacher and although she loved the photos, she was entranced first by the text.

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It's a wonderful book, a labor of love in every way. I can understand Money's wishes, however - it is a large, heavy book even by coffee table standards. But the photographs are really stunning and I wouldn't be without them. She was a remarkable camera subject.

She really was. And in her you can see a real link to ballerinas of the present, in a way that you can't with, say, Kschessinska or Legnani. Pavlova has the "Russian back" (considered a weakness in her time), the thin tapered legs with the delicate ankles, the highly arched instep, the wispy arms, that are all so prized today. Money got access to a lot of early photos that are "untouched" with regards to the famous pointe shoes. Pavlova would retouch her photos to hide the fact that she flattened the platform and strengthened the arch with a piece of leather. But Money has many untouched photos which show indeed the flat platform. But the heart of the book is the text, so carefully researched. And so lovingly presented. Pavlova seemed like a difficult, high-strung person, prone to tempers and strange moods, and Money acknowledges this, and he discreetly touches upon her 'protectors' at the Mariinsky, but it never seems like Dish or Gossip.

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Pavlova seemed like a difficult, high-strung person, prone to tempers and strange moods, and Money acknowledges this,

My only complaint – actually, it doesn’t really rise to the status of status of ‘complaint’ -- is that Money sometimes tries a little too hard to soften some of Pavlova’s rough edges (and she did have them, what with slapping partners, and all).

And in her you can see a real link to ballerinas of the present, in a way that you can't with, say, Kschessinska or Legnani.

She’s like Sarah Bernhardt, who was also considered too thin in her day – a forerunner of the coming change in taste.

Thanks for starting this thread, canbelto. I'm going to go take the book off the shelf. :)

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I got this recently from the Libary. Everything you say about it is true, canbelto. Thanks for starting this thead. It led me to order my own copy from Amazon (click above; Ballet Talk gets a share of the price).

The foundations of my love of ballet started long before my birth at a Pavlova performance in New York. As a result, I've always considered myself, in a very[/u] minor way, one of Pavlova's ballet children, almost like Ashton and others.

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Money's book was especially useful when I was teaching dance history, and preparing lectures on that period. Although the photos alone would have tempted me to buy it, the quality and the amount of the scholarship make it so much more.

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Also included in the book are contemporary reviews, including one very diplomatic, knowledgeable review from Vienna in 1909 (reviewing Pavlova's Giselle), which shows us how different ballet sensibilities were back in the day:

Unfortunately she is neither beautiful nor does she have an exceptionally good figure; she is thin .... That does not interfere with her artistry, but it does prevent enthusiasm from being too audible. Ladies of the ballet must be very, very pretty if one is to believe in them. With melancholy and gratitude I thought back to the unforgettable legs that march out when our Hopofer ballet takes the field, to the blooming faces and pleasing figures that make belief in life so precious.

Reviewer also had choice words for the ballet itself:

Adam's music is like the day before yesterday's soup, dispensed in driblets.

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Just in case anyone missed it, here's a Link to a brief thread on the Pavlova docudrama that you can watch in bits and pieces on YouTube. The first post has a link to the relevant YouTube page:

http://ballettalk.invisionzone.com/index.p...mp;#entry220224

A YouTube video of Pavlova dancing the Dying Swan (with voiceover commentary in Russian) is here. might also interest those who have been following our thread on Tutu styles.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R3kPxWUbU50

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the attached scan might prove of interest in that it shows some of the 'behind the retouching' mechanics to photos from the early 1900s when camera exposures were necessarily longer than the dancers' abilities to remain poised on point. this is a copy-print of a Mishkin photo, another one of which K.Money previously dated for me as around 1916 - i'll send this one to him as well and see if he has any other info to provide about this particular 'shoot'.

post-848-1206031059_thumb.jpg

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K. Money kindly emailed about the photo posted above, which he'd not seen before. he said it was ok for me to post some of that email after i asked his permission to do so. as his comments indicate, he was aware of the fluttery/wired effect worked into the DRAGONFLY costume already, i only noticed it recently when studying this particular photo. very clever of A.P. or of some savvy advisor of hers to make the costume seem to be fluttering in breeze when she was really just standing still.

so, here's what he wrote:

"I can't quite see what the lady assistant may be contributing, but all that fluttery gauze on the costume was really held in shape(s) by squiggly wires inside fine-rolled hems; so, she's not agitating that at all. If she had, it would have gone totally blurry, as would any bit of costume moving. What fascinates me, always, is the way Pavlova can suggest a lively and un-strained mood, facially, when in fact she might be holding it for anything up to twenty or thirty seconds. Ditto the body. She was really an uncannily good photographic model, and very few people, today, could achieve that sort of effervescence and 'lift' while being totally static. It's a shame that so many of that very extensive Mishkin Dragonfly sitting ended up being clear-cut for the printed page. Those repro's removed all the hard-wrought atmosphere of the studio prints. But Pavlova obviously enjoyed conspiring with the camera ­ I suppose because she knew she was astonishingly good at it."

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I add my thanks to Mme. Hermine's.

....What fascinates me, always, is the way Pavlova can suggest a lively and un-strained mood, facially, when in fact she might be holding it for anything up to twenty or thirty seconds. Ditto the body. She was really an uncannily good photographic model, and very few people, today, could achieve that sort of effervescence and 'lift' while being totally static. It's a shame that so many of that very extensive Mishkin Dragonfly sitting ended up being clear-cut for the printed page. Those repro's removed all the hard-wrought atmosphere of the studio prints. But Pavlova obviously enjoyed conspiring with the camera ­ I suppose because she knew she was astonishingly good at it."

That's so true. You look at some of those photos and you could swear they were action shots. 'Conspiring' with the camera is a neat way to put it. I'm reminded of Mailer's remark about Monroe that she had 'a witch's skill in relation to the still camera.'

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Money's book is also a nice antidote to the books of Richard Buckle about Nijinsky, Diaghilev, and the Ballet Russes, which are not very kind to Pavlova, for whatever reason.

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