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More Balanchine Variationsby Nancy Goldner


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#1 Eileen

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Posted 29 November 2011 - 10:48 AM

This is my next Balanchine book to buy and keep. I keep Nancy Goldner's Balanchine Variations close at hand and have read and notated it carefully. Now Alastair Macauley of the Times has reviewed her sequel, with 20 more ballets analyzed. In her first volume she limited herself to ballets that would be in the repertory of many companies - so her book would have more relevance to non-New York balletgoers. But her sequel includes many ballets that are not in wide circulation, in fact, that are only performed by NYC Ballet. So she includes many important ballets, which Macauley describes. I just wanted to draw your attention to the book. I am ordering it post haste! I admire the careful way Goldner describes Balanchine classics and her critical eye. Here is the link to the review:

http://www.nytimes.c...s.html?ref=arts

#2 Natalia

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Posted 29 November 2011 - 11:49 AM

Thanks, Eileen. I am so pleased to read that Ms Goldner has written a sequel, as not all of my 'Favorite Mr. Bs' are in the first volume. Definitely on my Santa Wish-List!

#3 puppytreats

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Posted 29 November 2011 - 01:40 PM

I read AM's great review yesterday, but hesitated to purchase these books because I have not yet seen the ballets. Any opinions on the value of this type of book in such a case?

Are librettos or dvd booklets available online for other ballets? I read synopses on ballet company websites, but prefer a more detailed discussion when I view dvds from Netflix, which are sent in the mail without the dvd booklets.

I ordered "Snowflakes" and "Bunheads" on cyber-Monday special... a little indulgence (in lieu of more gingerbread cookies).

#4 sandik

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Posted 29 November 2011 - 02:33 PM

I read AM's great review yesterday, but hesitated to purchase these books because I have not yet seen the ballets. Any opinions on the value of this type of book in such a case?


These kinds of books are of infinite value if you have not seen the work in question. In many cases, you might never get a chance to see the work in performance or on film -- this kind of documentation would be your only insight on the work.

Goldner does a great job with this kind of description and analysis, as do Marcia Siegel and Deborah Jowitt. I highly recommend all their work.

#5 Eileen

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Posted 29 November 2011 - 06:22 PM

I have taken another look at Goldner's first book, Balanchine Variations. What does Goldner add that a DVD does not? Insight and analysis. She has depth, and is able to perceive depth in Balanchine's great ballets. Especially in the mysterious Serenade - and it is mysterious - she recognizes its mystery. She explains both abstract and programmatic ballets (with stories) with the utmost respect and clarity. I can't praise this book enough. It will make you want to see the ballets you don't know, and see anew those ballets you have seen many times.

#6 bart

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Posted 30 November 2011 - 05:59 AM

Just ordered this from Amazon. (NOTE: the Amazon Order box is NOW LOCATED AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE. Purchases made by linking from there help Ballet Alert to remain on line.)


I read AM's great review yesterday, but hesitated to purchase these books because I have not yet seen the ballets. Any opinions on the value of this type of book in such a case?

These kinds of books are of infinite value if you have not seen the work in question. In many cases, you might never get a chance to see the work in performance or on film -- this kind of documentation would be your only insight on the work.

I agree with sandik. This is a sequel I've been praying for for a long time. It helps of course if you have some prior visual experience of at least some of the ballets. I can't imagine reading Goldner's essays without some prior sense of what Balanchine is about. Her ability to describe dance movement -- and the effect that it has on us -- is right up there with Macaulay's, in my opinion. One enormous plus -- she does not litter her text with technical terminology that is difficult for non-dancers to ingest.

Goldner sometimes injects her own experience into her pieces, but without the self-indulgence of a blogger. A beautiful example, from her piece on Serenade (from the first book).

My mother once told me that when I first started going to see the New York City Ballet as a child, I couldn't believe that a person had actually made the ballets. I thought they were aspects of nature, like blue skies and green grass and rain.

That speaks volumes to me. I can recall imagining that the dancers were making everything up as they danced in response to the music and to a sense of joy in movement. This may be a universal fantasy of young children. I STILL think this is the ideal way to experience Balanchine in live performance -- with a spontaneous eye and a a mind that that, however informed it may be, is still capable of experiencing wonder.

I've been lucky, thanks to Edward Villella and Miami City Ballet, to have seen in recent seasons all the ballets in Goldner's first volume. The second volume, however, includes some ballets I haven't seen in decades and one or two that I'm not sure I've ever seen. I'm counting on Goldner's descriptions to trigger visual and emotional memory.

#7 cahill

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 08:47 AM

The link above was broken try this one

http://www.nytimes.c...f=thenutcracker

#8 Eileen

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 12:35 PM

Sorry about that, thank you for posting the correct link.

#9 Eileen

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Posted 02 December 2011 - 11:44 AM

Hurray, More Balanchine Variations arrived yesterday and I am absorbing and inhaling it. I just finished her description of Symphony in C. I do think this will be of interest to those who are familiar with the ballets. Because I've seen the Bizet so many times and listened to the music countless times, when Goldner would describe the multitude of tendus in the fourth movement, I was reminded of the music, the music led me to the image of the tendus, and I knew exactly what she was talking about just through audio and visual memory. If you don't have that memory, you will not appreciate her analysis. Though let me keep reading - her next chapter is Orpheus and she is so interesting, although I haven't seen Orpheus, I suspect I may appreciate it, as well.

She covers all the best Balanchine ballets, I'm sure Amazon must list the chapters, and with such detail and what I can only call insight. It's more than visual observation, it is connections made. I could quote many wonderful passages: "I think that the most important development in Balanchine's career was to cast off the influence of other people's visual and literary ideas as the driving force behind ballet". This in the introduction, in connection with the reduction of the costuming in Concerto Barocco and Four Temperaments in 1951. Her discussion of Ballet Imperial (Tschaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2) makes reference to Merrill Ashley's Dancing for Balanchine, which led me flying to my 1984 copy of her book, which unfortunately doesn't have an index! But my point is she makes many important connections, and pulls from many sources, including of course the dancers themselves.

And the small size of this book and its prequel make them each the perfect accompaniment to your trip to NYC Ballet; you can read the relevant chapter during intermission and view the ballet with new eyes.

#10 bart

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Posted 02 December 2011 - 07:56 PM

... She covers all the best Balanchine ballets, I'm sure Amazon must list the chapters,

In chronological order:
-- Ballet Imperial (Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2)
-- Symphony in C
-- Orpheus
-- La Valse
-- Scotch Symphony
-- Allegro Brillante
-- Divertimento #15
-- Stars and Stripes
-- Episodes
-- Monumentum Pro Gesualdo
-- Liebeslieder Walzer
-- Raymonda Variations
-- Bugaku
-- Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet
-- Coppelia
-- Le Tombeau de Couperin
-- Chaconne
-- Union Jack
-- Vienna Waltzes
-- Mozartiana


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