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Grace Under Pressure

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I finally looked at my copy of SAB fall newsletter. I noticed a reference to a book by Barbara Newman, Grace Under Pressure: Dancing Through Time Is anyone familiar with this book or Barbara Newman? So far Amazon does not have any reviews.

Parenthetically, my wife gave me No Fixed Points for Christmas. Based on my reading of the first 150 or so pages it looks absolutely superb.

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Barbara Newman compiled a series of interviews with dancers in a book called Striking a Balance, published in 1982. The interviews were pretty interesting, as I recall. Newman concentrated more on the dancers' work than on their personal lives. About half of those interviewed were with the Royal Ballet (Newman lives in London, but I believe she's American). She also collaborated with Antoinette Sibley on her memoirs and has written for Ballet Review.

The SAB blurb says of the book, "Through personal anecdotes, it chronicles how the art of ballet is passed on through teachers, stagers, and coaches." Suki Schorer, Violette Verdy, Jean-Pierre Frolich, and Francia Russell are among those interviewed.

Sounds very interesting. :wink:

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I've been hearing about this book for months but didn't know the title -- thanks! It's not on Amazon yet, either the U.S. or U.K. version. (Im told that Sorella Englund is also in it, as is the Canadian dancer-teacher, Margaret Mercier, who taught at the RDB School for many years and is now teaching in Sweden.)

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Mark, Striking a Balance is EXTREMELY fine. Newman is intelligent, sober, about as far from gossip as one can get; she asks great questions and gets fascinating answers from many sterling dancers. For example, her interview with Tanaquil LeClercq (there are lamentably few with this goddess) includes LeClercq saying "well, my feet weren't that good, and I could have had nicer arms.... I wasn't a beater, like Pat Wilde, or a turner... I wasn't a balancer...." If you've ever seen any footage of LeClercq's magic (and I use that word seriously) you'll be stunned at her apparently OLYMPIAN standards for these things. Of course, she was comparing herself to Tallchief (as turner), Wilde (as beater/jumper), and Toumanova (as balancer), so......

The interviews with Royal Ballet principals of the time are especially stellar. Deanne Bergsma ("when you are simply Deanne Bergsma {on stage, as in abstract ballets} it isn't really very nice"), Christopher Gable, Antoinette Sibley, David Wall, Desmond Kelly, and Nadia Nerina are all worth the price of admission all by themselves. Merrill Ashley appears, as does Alicia Alonso-- you can see that it is a marvelous range. there is a new edition with a few additional interviews which came out a few years ago, I think. :wink:

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"Striking a Balance" is invaluable – one of the must-have dance books, IMO. British dancers do predominate, but there are also fine interviews with Nora Kaye and Toni Lander, among others. The interview with Le Clercq makes you long for more – her point of view is so candid and down to earth, and the amount of valuable information she took with her is depressing to contemplate. And she is beyond modest, although she does concede at one point, "I wasn't awful" or words to that effect.

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I especially enjoyed the interview with Antoinette Sibley in "Striking A Balance." I loved what she had to say about her first impressions of the Bolshoi. I also enjoyed Toni Lander's remarks about mime in ballets, and the value of studying it in school.

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I'm a big "Striking a Balance" fan as well. I read the first edition (there's an updated one from the early '90s with additional interviews) my first year of ballet going -- before I'd ever seen Swan Lake! As noted by others, many of the interviews are with Royal Ballet dancers, all of whom talk about "Swan Lake" and how difficult it is. Odd to read when you've never seen the ballet -- and very intriguing.

I also remember the LeClercq interview. "Of course, I couldn't jump." "Of course, I couldn't turn." It was, indeed, very modest!!!

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How odd! I found Grace Under Pressure: Dancing Through Time at another web-based book shop (which usually has the same range as amazon, but they are a little bit more informative about when the books will arrive) They said that the book is temporarily sold out (!) it only came out in November 2003!

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It can also mean that that particular web-site/distributor is out of stock -- this happened when my book was first released. A distributor may only order ten copies of the book, and so when those are sold, it's "sold out." But it's not out of print; they can order more.

You'll sometimes see this on Amazon: Only 1 copy remaining, more on the way.

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In looking for this book, it title seems to be: Grace Under Pressure: Passing Dance Through Time and it is available through Barnes and Noble. As far as I can tell it only seems to be available in large pring through Amazon, which seems a bit strange to me.

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I just this minute got my copy of this book and have just dipped into it; but these are the people Barbara Newman interviewed:

Suki Schorer

Kathryn Wade

Marc du Bouays

Anne Marie Vessel

Maina Gielgud

Helgi Tomasson

David Bintley

Francia Russell

Mark Morris

Jean-Pierre Frohlich

Shelley Washington

Yuri Fateyev

Sorella Englund

Violette Verdy

Irina Kolpakova

Margaret Mercier

Robert Denvers

Violette Verdy (again)

Richard Thomas

- interspersed with long sections by Newman herself. Looks fascinating, and extremely relevant to many of the discussions we have here.

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I've read big chunks of this and, although the interviews with teachers and coaches are fascinating, shedding light on the process of getting a performer to the stage, the real text of the book seems to be a reflection on the status of ballet at the end of the 20th c. Newman seems to have gone in to the process of interviewing and assembling materials believing that there's something fundamentally wrong with the state of ballet, and this seems to have influenced some of her choices, but the issues she raises are important ones, and worth the examination she gives them.

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I just got it, and am reading it now. I agree with sandik's assessment -- and I'd add: read this book if you're interested in the process of ballet, what goes on in class and in the studios, how a dancer becomes a dancer, and how a ballet gets onto the stage.

It's a fitting companion to Newman's "Striking a Balance" -- there she was dealing with Stars in an Age of Stars. Now she's picking up the pieces and talking to people, some of whom, like her, are wondering what happened.

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Brilliant book. Just discovered it on the shelf at B&N. The interview with Richard Thomas (a former teacher of mine) was worth the cover price alone. His powerful insights, wealth of experiences, keen eye, astute mind, wit, & critically high standards & integrity, all make for very interesting observations and remarks. Fascinating. Only wish his late wife, Barbara Fallis, could have added her thoughts too.

Looking forward to reading more of this book. Barbara Newman writes with intelligence and a great sense of perspective. It appears she makes a thorough attempt to cover issues that are important to those who care about the direction of ballet today, with probing & provocative questions.

Edited by Allegrovitch
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