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The Best...Book, DVD, Magazine

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Hi everyone:

I'm a new member and am getting back into ballet again as an, how shall we say, adult! I took a couple of Dance History classes in college (long, long ago and so fuzzy) and am interested in learning more.

So for my questions: If you were going to purchase ONLY two items in each category below, what would they be? You know, THE BEST?

Book-definitive ballet history

DVD-Best ...okay pick 3


Really enjoying this site and forum...great people!! Thanks in advance.


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I am a relatively new member as well, but have been reading a lot of ballet history. One book I can recommend without reservation is Lynn Garafalo's "Diaghilev's Ballets Russes." It really made me understand how ballet got where it is today. If you are particularly interested in Balanchine the new book by Charles Joseph "Stravinsky and Balanchine" is fascinating reading. However, I'm not sure he is as good on the ballet portion of that collaboration as he is on the music.

There are several survey books available. However, I would defer to the gathered wisdom on this board to tell you how good they are. They include:

Jack Anderson -- Ballet and Modern Dance

Carol Lee - Ballet in Western Culture (very new)

Mary Clarke and Clement Crisp -- Ballet and Illustrated History

If you are interested in Balanchine there is Bernard Taper's book on Balanchine.

I would be curious about what members of the board think of these books. There are other more specific books as well, but this is a start.

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Welcome to the board Terriergirl.

Good choices Mark D, I agree with you wholly on Garafalo's book.

Another good "starter" book is "Ballet 101" by Robert Greskovic.

A search on Amazon (just click on the link at the top of the page) and you can find books for specific styles, companies and history.

They have DVD as well.

I think it's hard to narrow down so few, like the performances themselves, the choices are so personal.

Magazines, I'd recommed Ballet Review, Dance View.

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Thanks so much for your suggestions Mark D and Calliope! I'll go pick up a couple of those. And thanks for the welcome.

I've looked over the list on Amazon (and few others) over the past month and it's quite staggering. I guess I'm really interested in what performances do you consider to be your "personal" favorites, understanding that these are just the platform to a beginner's journey...

Thanks again.

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Terriergirl, Greskovic's "Ballet 101" has (among other things) an excellent videography. Even though the book is a few years old now, there haven't been that many new releases since the book's publication (and many of these videos are now on DVD) so that would be a good place to start.

It is daunting to choose -- more difficult than picking which version of "Beethoven's 5th" -- there's less variation in music. You'll find that productions of "Swan Lake" vary so much that the only thing that's constant is the music! Sometimes, too, it's not whether the performance is "the best" but whether you like it! Some of the videos are of very great dancers a bit past their prime, and while there are some who love the chance to see dancers of the past, others want to see more contemporary performances.

Mark D, I did exactly what it seems you're doing when I first became interested in ballet -- read several dance history books. Much better than reading the same one several times -- each one has something a bit different, and by the time you've finished the third, you'll have a pretty good idea of the timeline and the major figures.

I think then often people start to read about particular periods that interest them -- for me, I had a Ballet Russe phase, and then a Royal Ballet phase, and then a Balanchine one, a Russian Ballet phase, and a Danish one. Others will be interested in particular choreographers or dancers. I recommend any of Ivor Guest's books. I think they read like novels, and his "Romantic Ballet in Paris" and "Romantic Ballet in London" were very important in my understanding of ballet history.

You'll only be able to find it on alibris or, by chance, in a used book store, and it's gotten expensive, but my perennial recommendation for THE BEST BOOK is Nancy Reynolds' "Repertory in Review," which covers every ballet in the New York City Ballet's repertory through 1976, with Reynolds' analysis, quotes from dancers, quotes from newspapers -- it was my tutor for understanding Balanchine and I still turn to it to prepare for a Balanchine season.

As for magazines -- there's a subtle hint in my signature line :) But I also recommend the British magazine Dance Now and the American Ballet Review.

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I agree with Alexandra's recommendation of magazines:).

I haven't read too many ballet history books, but as for DVDs, I can't limit myself to 3. Here are my top picks:

"Kirov Classics"

"Essential Ballet"

"Kirov Ballet: Classic Ballet Night"

"An Evening With The Royal Ballet"

"Balanchine Celebration" (actually 2 videos)

and the Kirov (Maryinsky) dancing any of the major classics. There is a very thorough Don Q (5 acts, I think) with Terekhova, Ruzimatov, Asylmuratova, and Makhalina (talk about an all-star cast!), a Swan Lake with Makhalina as well as one with Mezentseva, and several tapes of Sleeping Beauty with Sizova, Asylmuratova, Lezhnina, and Kolpakova as Aurora.


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When I've taught dance history I've frequently used Susan Au's "Ballet and Modern Dance" (not the most dynamic title, I know!) It's thorough, readable, and incorporates more information about contemporary European companies than most other texts I know. I noticed it was out in a second edition when I browsed my local bookstore last week, but I'm afraid I can't remember the publisher.

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