Its been a hell of a time. Horrible in so many ways to even attempt to recount it. But we all know all of it quite well I'm afraid. And I haven't seen any live ballet. Nobody has, or course. I can't stand online viewing. For anything, particularly for book reading, ballet performances or even films-(I'm a hardcore cinema fan, and even that has been greatly diminished lately). Anyhow...if there's any consolation to my lack of traveling and live performances viewing, it is that I reverted to literally eating books. Devouring them at light speed. And some ballet books have made it into my bookathon.
"The Legat Legacy" is one of them. The book is comprised of Nikolai Gustavovitch Legat's own memoires translated for the first time from Russian to English in 1936 by Sir Paul Dukes, and here subsequently re edited by Mindy Aloff with the wonderful addition of the words of our own RG, Mr Robert Greskovic, which in his great Introduction gives us a masterly summarization of the life and immense influence on the art of teaching of the late ballet pedagogue, along with corrections on some mistakes from both the original Russian text and Dukes' translation.
Legat's thinking is basically that of his immense respect and utterly admiration to his own teachers, Johannsen and Cecchetti, but particularly Johannsen, whom he considered the base and center of everything the world knows today as the Russian ballet school. Then there's also a wonderful account on Legat's own father-(a great dancer himself)- and a few, sad words on his prematurely departed brother...although he doesn't dwell on the issue of his suicide. We are given spicy, colorful descriptions of celebrated classmates. The famous/infamous ballerinas of the Imperial stage are all in there...with special warm words to two opposites: Kshessinskaya and Pavlova. the former one for her unparalleled technique-(only matched by her Italian rivals)- and mutual onstage empathy, and the second one for her uniqueness, warmth and purity in which she conducted their loved artform. Both of them cherished by Legat as true friends.
Later on there are accounts from some of his most distinguished pupils, telling us about the uniqueness of his method. The way some of them refer to the mystique and mystery of his communication codes-(not understood by many, but like a wonderful Pandora's box wide open once someone was able to grasp it)- quite reminded me at how some Balanchine's alumni speak similarly about his classes. If anything...everyone seems to agree on the fact that his classes were not for everyone, but rather to perfect the finesse of the already accomplished dancer. Hence the name..."Class of Perfection", which he initiated in Petersburg and continued in London.
I enjoyed tremendously the book. The words of those who "got" his teaching speak of an unmatched, witty class genius, and one that England didn't really know how to handle-(Dame deValois wasn't too kind of the man, although she admitted he was s genius).
If you haven't read it...do so. Highly recommended.