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Favorite books by dancers


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#31 Becky

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Posted 14 May 2002 - 12:22 PM

I enjoyed reading Gelsey Kirkland's autobiography, because it was revealing on her situation and character. Not about the ballet aspect, about half way through I think I was far more interested in her personal conflicts because she had such ups and downs. more of the downs it seems, but the highs must have been numerous too.
I think if you take it as it is, without wondering about how much she was to blame, if she villified certain people or not, the extent of the truth in it etc, it can be read as an interesting story on an interesting life. I think she did have an interesting life, worth reading and indeed writing about even if she gets it wrong.
In the eyes of editors, books have to sell and we all know what the essential ingredients are. So the sensationalism is to be expected as it is an easy trap to fall into when writing on such subjects as drugs, ballet, eating ...or not.
I have yet to see her dance on a video, but this thread has reminded me that I meant to. But all I have heard is that she was very gifted.
I am waiting to get Makarova's book from the libary, is it good? I have heard that she talks extensively on the conflict of flexibility against strength (something I have to work on, flexible but not so strong).
Becky:)

#32 Becky

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Posted 15 May 2002 - 02:23 PM

Yes, I agree and realise this Balletnut. I was presenting another view that's all. It is a good read, true or otherwise.The way the book shaped attitudes towards Balanchine and ballet and many other people and things, well it is a shame if the reader is misled. It may not have been helpful at all.
No story is ever completely true, it cannot be. the truth is always diluted to some extent to suit the author wether it be for personal reasons, money, pride, popularity, or any number of things. Every story is second hand and never reliable.
Becky

#33 Paul Parish

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Posted 09 May 2002 - 07:39 PM

I love your list -- they'd all be on mine, too; I especially like "Private Domain," it's such a mess, but it is just intoxicating....

I REALLY like "I Remember Balanchine" -- It's not BY a dancer, but by MANY dancers, interviewed by Francis MAson, and it gives a fascinating mosaic of impressions of him in action with them -- nearly 50 of them, from Russian days all the way though to the end -- also a few telling interviews with non-dancers......
(DON'T MISS the little chapter by WIlliam Weslow; my God , that''s lively)

Sorry, I jumped RIGHT AWAY off topic..... but it was the first that came to mind.....

I really admire Margot Fonteyn's autobiography -- what's it called? "Out in hte limelight, home in hte rain" is the phrase that comes to mind..... like Karsavina, she was a wonderful person...

#34 Paul Parish

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Posted 10 May 2002 - 09:30 AM

Here is the first paragraph of the William Weslow chapter………

“My first real contact with Balanchine was at Ballet Theatre in 1950, in Chicago, where his wife, the great Maria Tallchief, was dancing with the company for a time. I was in the corps de ballet. In the finale of Balanchine’s Theme and Variations, the Polonaise, the boys had to cross the stage in big leaps to the sound of crashing cymbals. We cleared a path for Maria to come down to the footlights, or we were supposed to. Balanchine was watching a rehearsal. I had never danced the ballet before.

Balanchine suddenly said, “Stop. Stop. You, boy.”

Me, he meant. He was doing his nose mannerisms and he spoke to me, sniffing away. I was quick to pick up any sort of mannerism.

“Boy – you. You must go up. And you go tremendously up. I know you have good elevation, but you have to go up and get our of the way fast, you see.”

Watching his nose, I began imitating him unconsciously.

He said, “And don’t do this nose. I do this nose. You DANCE.” He pushed me about 8 feet, and I did what he wanted. Or so I thought.

He said, “Come here. You, I want to tell you. You have to jump in and out and AWAY. You can’t be in the way, principal come in, and you’re IN THE WAY.”

There I was, going up in the air. And by the time I came down I was blocking Maria, who was coming down to the front. You don’t block Maria’s way. If you do, you’ve got a tomahawk in the middle of your forehead. I say that with admiration, because Maria was the greatest Balanchine dancer. I adored her.


and it just gets better -- don't miss hte sections on Lifar, on Allegra....

or how they used to throw him around the studio because if they threw Allegra and the boys didn't catch her, properly, she could get hurt... (in fact, she was already bruised all over). ...it's' just fabulous......

#35 Paul Parish

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Posted 10 May 2002 - 02:45 PM

"Distant Dances" -- what's that?

#36 Paul Parish

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Posted 10 May 2002 - 08:41 PM

oops -- sorry, guys, that was pretty stupid of me.... Osato was a beautiful dancer, it's good to think I'll enjoy reading her book.....

and it's true, Weslow is by far the most fun, and the ballerinas are as usual sweetly diplomatic and awfully circumspect...though Mary Ellen Moylan, who's very VERY sweet, does say that Balanchine wanted her in developpe to offer the foot as if it were her hand.......

#37 Paul Parish

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Posted 12 May 2002 - 01:04 PM

Although of course I agree with Farrell Fan about Gelsey's first book, -- that husband of hers just seems to have gotten off on getting her revved up and self-pitying -- i have to say, she DID go to extraordinary lengths and take extraordinary pains to perfect her art.... Th section where she went to the MAryinskly Theater to watch the Kiorv take class seems like a pretty lucidf interval for her..... and the loneliness she felt, to diascover that she was pretty much the only dancer who wanted to go check out hte fountainhead.... well, I hve a lot of sympathy with her in that...... Yes, I think she projected a great deal onto her teachers and colleagues -- when they asked her to lighten up -- "dance like Fred Astaire" - she didn't believe they could mean that, and if I remember right, implied that they were trying to sabotage her........

I haven't read it for a long time..... wonder how I'd feel now. It certanly has to be taken "with a grain of salt" -- but the clues are all there; child of alcoholics, the perfectionism, the competition with her sister, the acute sense of her physical limitations, her head was too big as a child and he insteps weren't high enough and she didn't grow up to have the proportions she wanted, or rather, the proportions she admired..... but she was a tremendlusly severe critic of HERSELF....... The saddest thing about he book was that it sounded like she never enjoyed dancing until she started doing drugs.... Maybe she needed that release......

#38 Morris Neighbor

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Posted 09 May 2002 - 11:33 PM

First off, let me second FF's choices (though I will confess he has has a strong influence on my book-buying habits).

And thank you, AT, for the tip about the Osato book; I will look it up. I would also respectfully differ from your reaction to the Taylor book. I really liked his efforts to explain how and why he became so obsessed with movement and its meanings. True, the book gets dull when it lapses into "and then I choreographed..." and it does not paint a very engaging portrait of its author. But as the brilliant documentary Dancemaker suggests, Taylor is more appealing as a dancer and dancemaker than as a person.

Meanwhile, let me add one suggested title, mostly for those who have not spent much time in a dance classroom or rehearsal hall: Merrill Ashley's Dancing for Mr. B.. Its exemplary stop-action photos clarify basic steps and help explain how technique becomes dance. The text (as one critic wrote) tells us more than we ever wanted to know, but reading just a few pages helps us enter the mind of a dancer.

For readers without access to major bookstores or libraries, I can suggest that www.amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com include not only books in print but books out of print as well.

#39 Morris Neighbor

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Posted 13 May 2002 - 05:14 PM

I agree with Paul that dancers face extraordinary tensions at a young age. Fortuantely, most of them find support systems, usually among fellow dancers. From all I have read and heard, these conditions have improved markedly in the past decade or so; there are even dancers who marry and have children in mid-career.

But I cannot think of another dancer who chose to air her dirty linen so gaudily as Gelsey. I was toiling in the book industry (in a cubicle adjacent to FF) when Dancing on My Grace came out, and I do remember tales of the publication party: her publisher invited all her former colleagues at NYCB and ABT, plus other dance world luminaries, and they all refused. The invitation to Peter Martins, whom she portrayed as a callous, two-faced satyr, has to set a high mark in chutzpah.

As for Chris d'Amboise's book, I knew the agent who placed it, and he was very pleased that the editor who took it under her wing was the late Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Disregarding modern publishing practices, Mrs. O. actually read manuscripts and gave authors extensive editorial notes. And the (at the time) quite young Mr. d'Amboise greatly benefited from her guidance. It's certainly an unusually eloquent, vivid account of a dancer coming of age.

#40 Morris Neighbor

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Posted 15 May 2002 - 07:12 PM

A few messages back, Ari raised an important point: in the dance boom of the late '60s and early '70s, a million flowers bloomed in New York. For those of us who came of age in that period, the posiblities of choreography, in all its many styles and manifestations, blew us away. And when tickets went for $5 or $6 a pop, we got to see a lot of dance. Personal failings were not very important if the performance stretched our ideas of dance.

Today, with tickets running $30 or $50 a pop, I am much more selective.

Similarly with books. Kirkland chose to betray confidences and compromise friendships in order to maximize her profits.

I've never read her book, I have no plans to do so (the reviews were more than enough) and I have lost all respect for her. Talent excuses neither crude vegeance nor criminal excess.


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