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Balanchine, Celebrating a Life in Dance

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Disclaimer: I'm one of the contributors to this book, but I'd put a link up to it if I weren't!

This should be out in November, I think. I just got the catalogue for it today.

Published by Tide-mark:

"Balanchine, Celebrating a Life in Dance"

Photographs by Costas

Hardcover. 10 X 12 inches, 248 pages, 250+ color and black and white photos. 1-55949-545-5, $45.00"

It's organized by ballet, I think, and each ballet is illustrated with photos (the catalogue shows Apollo, with 12 photos, including rehearsal shots) and each ballet has commentary by a dancer who either created a leading role or was closely associated with leading roles -- the catalogue includes Farrell, Martins, Mazzo, Tallchief, Tomasson, Villella, and von Aroldingen; I know there are more -- or a critic writing about a particular ballet.

Obviously intended as a Balanchine Centennial book. I haven't seen it yet. If anyone does, please comment. (I have a very minor part in this, and please don't let that stymie discussion.)

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It hit me last night that there are several writers known to readers of Ballet Alert! who also contributed to the book -- I didn't mean to overlook them (and none of them contacted me about it!) I'd really meant what I wrote above as a disclaimer. BUT Paul Parish, Mary Cargill, Leigh Witchel, Martha Ullman West also contributed. I know George Jackson and Clive Barnes wrote something, and I'm assuming Nancy Reynolds did as well (she and Costas collaborate the NYCB calendar every year). If I've forgotten anyone, apologies, and please email me.

Of more interest to readers, I'm sure, are the dancers. Costas tried to get as many dancers as possible, so this is a very partial list (from the catalogue and a few from my own knowledge): Peter Martins, Suzanne Farrell, Edward Villella, Ib Andersen, Sean Lavery, Karin von Aroldingen, Patricia McBride, Maria Tallchief. I'm sure there are many more.

And, as several people who have seen the catalogue wrote me, what really matters is the photos!

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For those who've been looking forward to this book, it's out now, and despite the $45 price, the Kennedy Center sold out its copies this past weekend. I found the color in a lot of the photos rather garish, and I didn't buy a copy, but I'll suppose I'll break down eventually and shell out for the essays.

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I did break down and bought it. I love the book. It's beautifully written (by some of our friends here) and the ballets are given loving tributes. The photos are wonderful. I had been eyeing the Zakharova as Sugar Plum at the Lincoln Center gallery for a few seasons but just couldn't afford the price of the actual photograph, but it is here in the book. Of course, I was pleased to see so many Farrell pictures, as well as current favorites Meunier (in Brahms-Schoenberg and Who Cares?) and Part (in Serenade and Symphony in C), Zelensky, Bussell, Ringer etc... as well as so many dancers from my childhood.

Here's a list of ballets with the "commentators:"

Agon - Arthur Mitchell

Apollo - Peter Martins

Ballo Della Regina - Merrill Ashley

Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet - Colleen Neary

Chaconne - Joel Lobenthal

Concerto Barocco - Barbara Weisberger

Coppelia - Mary Cargill

Diamonds - Caitlin Sims

Divertimento No. 15 - Nancy Goldner

Divert. from Baiser de la Fee - Helgi Tomasson

Don Q. - Suzanne Farrell

Duo Concertant - Kay Mazzo

Emeralds - Mimi Paul and Violette Verdy

Episodes - Marian Horosko

Firebird - Maria Tallchief

4ts - Virginia Johnson

Harlequinade - Suki Schorer

Liebeslieder Walzer - Karin von Aroldingen

Midsummer Night's Dream - Francia Russell

Monumentum/Movements - Mindy Aloff

Mozartiana - Ib Anderson

Nutcracker - Ellen Switzer

Orpheus - Don Daniels

Prodigal Son - Edward Villella

Raymona Variations - Andris Liepa

Davidsbundlertanze - Leigh Witchel

Rubies - Robert Weiss

Scotch Symphony - Alexandra Tomalonis

Serenade - Jean Battey Lewis

Slaughter on Tenth Avenue - Doris Herina

La Sonnambula - Paul Parish

La Source - Violette Verdy

Square Dance - Patricia Wilde

Stars and Stripes - Gia Kourlas

Steadfast Tin Soldier - Robert Johnson

Stravinsky Violin Concerto - Susan Jaffe

Swan Lake - Robert Greskovic

Symphony in C - Nina Ananiashvili

Symphony in Three Movements - Sara Leland

Tchaik. Pas de Deux - Cynthia Gregory

Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto #2 - Robert Gottlieb

Theme and Variations - Olga Chenchikova

Le Tombeau de Couperin - Rosemary Dunleavy

Tzigane - Sarah Kaufman

Union Jack - Richard N. Philp

La Valse - Harris Green

Vienna Waltzes - Sean Lavery

Walpurgisnacht - Don McDonagh

Western Symphony - Martha Ullman West

Who Cares? - Larry Kaplan

And further essays on Balanchine, the Trust, and Foundation etc.. by Clive Barnes, Lynn Garafola, and Nancy Reynolds.

There are two mistakes I noted - Katherine Tracey is noted in a caption as "Catherine" and in Diver. #15, Illman from Canada is shown. She did guest as the lead, but is shown in the first movement of Symphony in C.

However, it's a great book to add to my Balanchine collection. Costas' photographs always have been special (I get his calendar every year). The photos are not just have NYCB, but show the global influence of Balanchine with selections of the Bolshoi, ABT, the Royal, the Mariinsky, and PNB.

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". . . [D]espite the $45 price, the Kennedy Center sold out its copies this past weekend."

:wub: The Shops at Lincoln Center hadn't even received the first shipment as of yesterday!

Thanks so much for listing contents, Dale. There are some that I'm just dying to read. The inside/outside points of view make this an exceptionally intriguing collection of essays.

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I think Costas is a great dance photographer, and I was proud to be asked to contribute. I haven't seen it yet, but I think of it as HIS book, an extended photo-essay with some real long captions. (On the other hand, I can't wait to see what Verdy and Paul wrote abut Emeralds, and Tomasson about Baiser de la Fee, Tallchief on Firebird, Farrell on Mr. B's Don Q, just for starters. These are the key participants, ANYTHNG they say will be gold.)

Alexandra should feel some influence from her book on Kronstam on my short essay, since it's about La Sonnambula (one of Kronstam's great roles), and I was inspired by what he told her about the ballet....

Thanks Dale for listing all the contributors -- You've really whetted my appetite to see it now.

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Thanks to Dale for typing in that long long list! A friend emailed me this morning (I still haven't seen it) with one thing that was left off --

Introduction, by Costas

Chapter 1, The Art of George Balanchine by George Jackson

The order of the book is then:

Chapter 2, The Life of George Balanchine, Clive Barnes, followed by the ballet essays and at the end, the Trust and the Foundation by, respectively, Barbara Horgan and Nancy Reynolds.


I've known Costas for years, and two stories about the photographs I don't think he'd mind my telling are these:

One, he would get to a rehearsal early and sit underneath the piano, so that people would forget he was there. And two, there were times when he would be alerted to a rehearsal on short notice. He was teaching (mathematics, at a New York private school) and would go to the headmaster and say he was "having palpitations" and needed to be excused for the rest of the day.

I'm sorry if the printing process has given the prints a garish tone, as kfw mentioned above, because I love his photographs.

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One, he would get to a rehearsal early and sit underneath the piano, so that people would forget he was there.  And two, there were times when he would be alerted to a rehearsal on short notice.  He was teaching (mathematics, at a New York private school) and would go to the headmaster and say he was "having palpitations" and needed to be excused for the rest of the day.

If I was going to watch a rehearsal of Balanchine's, I'd be having palpitations too!

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Got it as a Christmas present from my husband, after having just a quick look at it I have to say how lovely I think it is. The color pictures are beautiful but the black and white pictures of Balanchine working with his dancers are my favorites. Thanks to all who participated in this wonderful book!

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I just got my copy (from Amazon :) and it is beautifully done. I enjoyed what Paul Parish wrote about 'La Sonnambula'. The Sleepwalker truly was a role waiting for Allegra Kent--and I liked Paul's pairing her with Kronstam (whom I did not see)--all this set me to fantasizing-------a while ago Al Pacino played the part of a director in a film (can't remember the title) who creates a "Star" using computer technology and fools the public into thinking she is real. Isn't there some technical wizard out there who can re-create Kent and Kronstam in 'La Sonnambula'? :rolleyes:

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atm, if ballet were as "important" as, say, hockey, there would be a video game where you could choose your favorite star, and cast him or her in your favorite ballet (or the opposite, if you had a different turn of mind!). But, alas, the market would be too small for the effort! Now, if some 14 year old computer geek/ballet student had a free summer.......

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I attended the discussion Tuesday night where, by the way, I saw a number of fellow BAniks, who I hope will fill in any lapses that follow. I took notes, but that only works if you can decipher them, right? :) Note: Anything in quotes is not -- not -- an exact quote.

Something striking happens when people who knew Balanchine remember him: at the same moment that he becomes more human and accessible, he also becomes a greater figure in ballet's firmament. I can think of no other person of whom this is true.

Lourdes Lopez' recalled preparing Paquita for her SAB workshop performance at age 15. Balanchine had entered the studio, and at one point while he was talking to Danilova in Russian, he came over and replaced Lourdes' partner. Lourdes had been on pointe with her leg extended a la seconde. As the minutes passed and the conversation in Russian drew on, her leg began to cramp, and she brought it down. Balanchine turned to her, "No, dear. Up!" On the way home she berated herself: Here is this genius who thinks you, a mere student, are important enough for his valuable time and attention, and you can't even hold your leg up? It was a life-changing moment.

She also contrasted her early training from Cuban (Russian-influenced) teachers, where every class included endless fouettes -- 32 right, 32 left, 32 right, 32 left -- to Balanchine's eschewing of the Big Steps in favor of endless tendus, on which depended the refinement of those all-important in-between moves.

Virginia Johnson, radiant and soft-spoken, paid homage to his generosity. She remembered when Balanchine gave the then-new DTH both Agon and Concerto Barocco. Two unquestionable masterpieces, and he just handed them over! Learning Balanchine's rhythmic complexities was one of several revelations. This graduate of the Washington School of Ballet said her very English training was based on poses, and learning to move through the poses was an initial challenge.

Sean Lavery recalled the premiere of Kammermusik No. 2 and the tepid response of the audience, which left the cast discouraged. "Don't worry," Balanchine reassured the dancers. "Twenty years, they'll think it's great."

Karin von Aroldingen described how slowly her friendship with Balanchine developed. She had been in the company for a couple of years when one day, completely out of the blue, Balanchine approached her saying, "I love German cooking!" KvA's face took on an exaggerated "Go figure!" expression. :shrug:

Nancy Reynolds offered when she presented Mr. B with a copy of her first book (and here I'm assuming she means "Repertory in Review"), and he asked her to send a copy to his childhood friend, Slonimsky, who was behind the Iron Curtain and unable to keep up with Balanchine's achievements over the years. She was deeply touched that her work could help bridge the separation between these two old friends.

And Costas, of course, spoke of the difficulty of capturing the movement instead of the poses, a skill he mastered. It was KvA who showed Balanchine a portfolio of Costas' photos, initiating the relationship between the two men.

Among the technical distinctions noted were the use of foot on pointe, and Balanchine's emphasis on rolling through the length of the foot during releve and deleve, cushioning each move. Also, the tightness of the cross of the legs in bouree, which also made for cleaner batterie. Lavery spoke of the exaggerated demonstration of different levels -- higher jumps, deeper plies.

George Jackson graciously moderated the lively and engaging panel. Thanks and congrats to all who participated.

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Where's Villella Gone?

it's a wonderful book. However, is it just my suspicious mind or am I missing something?

I haven't spotted a single photograph with Villella - even though there are plenty Patsy McBride pictures. That should've taken some effort.

It's almost like there were just two big guys in the past: Baryshnikov and Peter Martins, and nobody else.

Of course Villella has a written contribution on Prodigal Son, so apparently he wasn't opposed to the book. So what happened?


Edited by Herman Stevens
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I agree that there are too many pictures of Baryshnikov. Anyone looking at this book who was unfamiliar with NYCB history would assume that he spent much more time with company, and was much more important in it, than he actually was. However, I also noticed that there are many photos of the ballets videotaped for PBS in the late 70s. Costas may have been the official (or non-official) photographer for the project and that might be the explanation.

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Herman, I think the book was intended as a book of Costas' photos rather than a history of the company, and he wasn't photographing during Villella's day.  McBride danced a bit longer.  (I believe Costas began photographing NYCB in the late 1970s.)

Thank you for your response, Alexandra. The jacket copy says Costas has been working with the NYCB "for more than 35 years", i.e. well into the Sixties, and I believe Villella retired fom the company some time after after the 1975 Ravel Festival, and his memoir mentions dancing at the Ford White House, but I might be wrong...

I would have loved to see beautiful color pictures of two signature pieces of Villella's Harlequinade and Prodigal. And come to think of it, there's no Bugaku section either!

Well. Who knows why?

I just read your Scotch piece, with its lovely concluding sentence.


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Thank you, Herman.

I thought instead of giving my best guess again, I should call Costas and ask, and so I did. He began photographing in the late '60s (35 years ago was 1969) This was at the end of several dancers' careers -- there's also very little of Verdy, nothing of Melissa Hayden. Also, Costas did not have unlimited access to rehearsals or performances in his early years; that came later, in the mid-1970s.

And now -- for our first Ballet Alert! live interview! I'm typing as I'm talking.

"It's not that Villella and I had a fight, or that NYCB didn't want him in," Costas said. "I picked what I thought was the best stuff I had, then the dancers went through it and threw out whatever they didn't want. Then New York City Ballet administration went through it and threw out some more. [if the dancer's feet aren't pointed, or are sickled, for example, or they think their nose looks too big, it wouldn't have been included], and then it goes to the publisher, and the publisher makes the final selection."

So the simple answer is, he didn't have good photos of Villella. "If you're going to select six or eight photos of each ballet, then you select the best photos you have. And the point was to show the ballets."

Costas added that he has some very good photographs of Villella in "Watermill" (Robbins) and "Afternoon of a Faun" (Robbins) but they obviously weren't appropriate to this book -- "So if I do a book on Jerome Robbins, then Villella will be there."

I'd also like to add that I'm sure Costas understands that people will be disappointed if a favorite dancer -- or a dancer they think is more appropriate to a particular role than the one included in the book -- isn't there. These are the reasons why. But feel free to continue saying, 'Darn, I wanted photos of X and there aren't any" :wink:

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