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Arlene Croce review of recent Diahilev bioThe New York Review of Books


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#1 rg

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Posted 24 December 2010 - 05:20 AM

apparently Arlene Croce's review of the recent Scheijen biography of Diaghilev is in the current issue of TNYRoB.
i haven't see it, but have been told it's now on the stands.
i'm not a subscriber and thus don't have access to the publication on line, but those who are subscribers should be able to find it on line.

#2 Kathleen O'Connell

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Posted 24 December 2010 - 05:42 AM

apparently Arlene Croce's review of the recent Scheijen biography of Diaghilev is in the current issue of TNYRoB.
i haven't see it, but have been told it's now on the stands.
i'm not a subscriber and thus don't have access to the publication on line, but those who are subscribers should be able to find it on line.


It looks as if NYROB has now made the entire article available on line. Here's the link.

#3 bart

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Posted 24 December 2010 - 05:47 AM

Kathleen, you beat me to it!

It looks as though the article will appear in print in the Jan. 13th edition.

#4 ViolinConcerto

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Posted 24 December 2010 - 08:05 PM

I printed it out to read over the weekend in NYC, and it's 8 pages, single spaced!

Here is a portion of the first paragraph and the 2nd one:


[size="4"][font="Century Gothic"]

In the 1930s, when he was trying to establish American ballet, Lincoln Kirstein complained that “balletrusse” was one word. ..... Perhaps today in the public mind ballet is still Russian. When the Soviet Union fell and its ballet companies freed themselves from government interference, the Western choreographer whose works they chose to be their main guide to modernism was George Balanchine, a Ballets Russes product who had been Kirstein’s choice sixty years before, his gift to America.

If the goal of the formerly Soviet companies was to become modern in russeterms, by rights they should have chosen Merce Cunningham, because most Ballets Russes choreography was not ballet but what we would call modern dance. Now that modernism is dead and modern dance is a chapter in history (like Romantic ballet), we look back at ballets we cannot see and try to reconjure an image of stage magic from composites of scenery, costumes, and music. Since that is basically how they were conceived by their own producer, it is not surprising that the latest book about Sergei Diaghilev has no dance commentary to speak of. This is both an understandable omission and a missed opportunity.

[/font][/size]

#5 bart

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Posted 28 December 2010 - 05:34 PM

The paper edition is now in the mail. Violin Concerto's quotation was one of many that I underlined and starred as I read the entire piece. Croce, having been silent for so long, bursts out with many fascinating insights, some of them bound to spark discussion. For example:

A biographer may of course select aspects of his subject and ignore others, and Scheijen has permission to ignore dance from Diaghilev himself, who after one of his fights with Fokine was heard to boast, "I could make a choreographer out of this inkwell if I wanted to."

But Scheijen also ignores it because it is a subject about which educated people, after a whole century of revelatory dance, are far more content to remain ignorant than they were at its inception. Granted, dance is a perishable art. Yet of all the Russian ballets that were produced between 1909 and 1929, it's the ones with the strongest dance content that remain revivable today -- Fokine's Les Sylphides, Nijinsky's L'Apres-midi d'un faune, Nijinska's Les Noces, Balanchine's Apollo and The Prodigal Son. All the rest have gone to museum heaven.

And

For Scheijen Parade and Les Noces and Le Pas d'Acier are "progressive." Scheherazade and The Firebird and anything to do with the eighteenth century, Diaghilev's favorite historical era, are "conservative" In these politicized judgments Scheijen echoes and amplifies the line taken by Lynn Garafola in Diaghilev's Ballets Russes (1989). Diaghilev is always carrying art boldly forward or shamefully backward.

Going forward by going backward, one of the most revealing strategies of modernism, is given no notice here.


I've also posted -- in QUOTABLE QUOTES -- a wonderful passage in which Diaghilev gets to the heart of neoclassicism:
http://balletalert.i...433#entry279433

#6 ViolinConcerto

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Posted 29 December 2010 - 06:51 PM

What both troubles and amazes me (and makes me want more answers and information) are statements like this:

[size="4"][font="Georgia"]
Diaghilev was not just an “assertive homosexual,” he was a proselytizing, misogynistic homosexual. Neither Oliver Winchester’s article, “Diaghilev’s Boys,” in the V&A volume nor Scheijen’s biography includes the damning testimony given by Balanchine and Stravinsky on this point. Diaghilev’s misogyny was probably exacerbated by lovers who repeatedly left him for women. [/font][/size]


Where is that "damning testimony?" What was it? Her piece is not really a double book review: it's an interesting and mysterious essay that leaves us as much in the dark as enlightened. I happen to be very interested in the lives of Diaghilev and his minions, and drank up her review, hoping for enlightenment... and ended up more confused than ever, even though I've read quite a bit (but obviously, not nearly enough). It seems to me that she launches into Scheijen's work, briefly praises Jane Pritchard's but spends most of the essay giving her own point of view on Diaghilev without giving her sources.

Am I over-reacting??? Or just ignorant?

#7 bart

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Posted 29 December 2010 - 07:08 PM

Her piece is not really a double book review: it's an interesting and mysterious essay that leaves us as much in the dark as enlightened.

I too was puzzled by some of her utterances.

Violin Concerto, you used the term "mysterious." As I read the piece, I found the word "oracular" popping to mind. Croce has always had something of the Sybil in her style. From time to time, as I read this piece, I found myself asking: What can she mean by this? Will she develop the idea in future writing?

That said, it's great to see Croce publishing again. She reminds me that dance has a cultural resonance far greater, and much deeper, than many critics think.

#8 ViolinConcerto

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Posted 29 December 2010 - 08:46 PM


Her piece is not really a double book review: it's an interesting and mysterious essay that leaves us as much in the dark as enlightened.

I too was puzzled by some of her utterances.

Violin Concerto, you used the term "mysterious." As I read the piece, I found the word "oracular" popping to mind. Croce has always had something of the Sybil in her style. From time to time, as I read this piece, I found myself asking: What can she mean by this? Will she develop the idea in future writing?

That said, it's great to see Croce publishing again. She reminds me that dance has a cultural resonance far greater, and much deeper, than many critics think.

:clapping:

#9 Paul Parish

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Posted 30 December 2010 - 12:25 PM

THank you for posting the link. The review is an extensive and vigorous essay; it's great to see that strong mind at work again.



apparently Arlene Croce's review of the recent Scheijen biography of Diaghilev is in the current issue of TNYRoB.
i haven't see it, but have been told it's now on the stands.
i'm not a subscriber and thus don't have access to the publication on line, but those who are subscribers should be able to find it on line.


It looks as if NYROB has now made the entire article available on line. Here's the link.



#10 Paul Parish

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Posted 30 December 2010 - 12:38 PM

VC, Croce is not writing a review but a "review article,' and obeying the conventions with energy and style. This is the kind of essay the NYRB specializes in, has done so since its inception -- the writer is an authority and is expected to say everything they want to on the subject that the book being considered brings up, and it's assumed that the reader will be a scholar/intellectual and want to be stimulated to further thought.

The LONDON Review of Books -- the NYRB's sister publication, I've subscribed to both over the years -- is even more astounding in its general level of "pronouncements." I prefer the LRB, since it's less grindingly earnest, and the level of knowledge with which the critic is armed is at least as high as the NYRB's.

#11 bart

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Posted 30 December 2010 - 01:50 PM

Paul, thanks for the clarification. I've also been a NYRB reader for a long time (since the first issue, in fact). Croce, as you say, is writing about her reflections on the topic, not just reviewing a book and exhibition.

I think, however, that there is another quality -- something both Violin Concerto and myself experienced -- that goes beyond the typical NYRB format (which itself goes beyond the typical "book review" format). This involves the scattering of several stunning but undeveloped thoughts and comments that would seem to demand some sort of elaboration.

The appearance of such apercus and judgments does not detract from the essay. In fact, it makes Croce's return to print even more intriguing. It leaves me, at least, yearning for more.

#12 Quiggin

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Posted 31 December 2010 - 02:11 PM

Croce

This quasi-anthological scheme will undoubtedly appeal to readers encountering Diaghilev for the first time. Scheijen’s text avoids the overload of names, dates, and places that sank Richard Buckle’s Diaghilev in 1979, but his approach is nowhere as sophisticated, his interpretive skills never as refined as Buckle’s.


I agree with this - the Scheijen book seems a calm, homogeneous executive summary - though with some new materials - compared to the book Buckle wrote. Buckle follows Diaghilev like a documentary cameraman. Most importantly he has talked with many of the originals and knows just the right tone to take with the materials. From Buckle's book - which seems to be out of print:

This ballet [“Apollo”] planned as a ‘vehicle’ for Spessivtseva, became a milestone in the process of deifying Lifar. Diaghilev had given him a new nose and some education: Balanchine created for him a style, a neoclassic style, which became Lifar’s own. After Diaghilev’s death this Lifar style would degenerate into empty posturings, but from 1927 to 1929 it was breath-taking.


Fokine had trouble making out Stravinksy’s score for Petrushka, and really never liked it. His admiration for the composer, like that of so many other people, stopped short with the Firebird. (For that matter, Stravinksy never thought that Fokine’s loose handling of the crowd scenes was a correct interpretation, or that Benois’ costumes were what they should be. Benois, on the other hand, thought everything was perfect.) When the musicians began to rehearse the music, they burst out laughing. Monteux had trouble convincing them that his was not a joke.


Picasso’s curtain, in a naive but old-fashioned style, like the decoration of a nineteenth-century fairground, gave no hint of the Cubist novelties its rising would reveal ... [On it were] curtains painted on a curtain, a scene depicting stacked scenery, was the same kind of poetic joke as Benois’ stage within a stage in Petrushka, of which Picasso knew nothing...Seven fantastic figures were grouped around a table and the forains were clearly picnicing on stage, for Picasso had painted its boards, one which there lay a big blue ball adorned with white stars – foretelling the costumes of the Acrobats ...
The setting for the action was a Cubist streetscape, the colors traditional ochres and greys, some dull green in the trees. All the characters caused astonishment, but none more than the towering Cubist structures worn by the stamping managers, which were three dimensional scuptures incorporating portraits of two men, two cities – almost two civilizations ... The uproar that greeted Parade has been greatly exaggerated. Cocteau heard a lady saying, “If I had known it would be like this I should have brought the children.”



Buckle includes Diaghilev's last telegram to Lifar - during D's last days which Buckle develops over many pages.

Dearest, your telegram made me feel easier in my mind. I haven’t however, the tiniest little note from you. Why didn’t you write? Forgot Kotja? Did you get my letter from Paris?

The Hindemiths are very nice, but so far he has done nothing. But he’s full of good will and hope. His Cantata is a strange piece of work, but you can see it was rushed, and the show that goes with it is pretty poor. I’ve seen masses of friends from Paris, not to mention Mme de Polignac ... My sustenance here is Wagner and Mozart... Today at Tristan, I shed bitter tars. Books take up a lot of my attention. Thank Boris for his first letter.

Don’t forget your ‘cat’ who embraces and blesses you [Drawing of a cat with its tail in the air.]



#13 ViolinConcerto

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Posted 01 January 2011 - 10:18 AM

VC, Croce is not writing a review but a "review article,' and obeying the conventions with energy and style. This is the kind of essay the NYRB specializes in, has done so since its inception -- the writer is an authority and is expected to say everything they want to on the subject that the book being considered brings up, and it's assumed that the reader will be a scholar/intellectual and want to be stimulated to further thought.

The LONDON Review of Books -- the NYRB's sister publication, I've subscribed to both over the years -- is even more astounding in its general level of "pronouncements." I prefer the LRB, since it's less grindingly earnest, and the level of knowledge with which the critic is armed is at least as high as the NYRB's.


I understand, and, as you can see, we are all "stimulated to further thought!"

I am still curious about the references she's made, and wonder if anyone has come across answers to my questions.

And, HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL.


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