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Books: Grace Under Pressure

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Guest Mark D

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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Guest tempusfugit

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. :gossip:

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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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  • 6 months later...

You all may already be aware of it, but I just wanted to tell everyone about a great book : Grace Under Pressure; Passing Dance Through Time, Limelight Editions. www.limelighteditions.com


It is a series of absolutely fascinating interviews with (as Nancy Reynold of the Balanchine Foundation puts it) "an array of teachers, coaches, and directors from the dance world to adresssuch near-ineffable subjects as style, standards, creativity, artistry, and taste. They, like the author, speak with both thoughtfulness and passion, and the result is tough, intellectually honest, and beautifully written".


This is all true. Wonderful book. Dense and compelling...amazing first hand observations by artistic directors, ballet masters and mistresses, teachers... MUST READ!!!

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mcrm55, thank you for the heads up on this book. I have yet to read it however it is on my list. Do you know what teachers and coaches are interviewed? It is always interesting to read the thoughts of teachers and coaches who have gone to a certain level of success! :)

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The book is divided into several sections:





I In the Classroom

Suki Schorer, SAB

Kathryn Wade Enlish Nat'l Ballet School

Marc du Bouays Paris Opera Ballet School

Anne Marie Vessel Royal Dansih Ballet School


II On the Job

Maina Gielgud

Helgi Tomasson SFB

David Bintley Birmingham Royal Ballet

Francia Russell PNB


III In Creation and Revival

Mark Morris

Jean-Pierre Frohlich

Shelly Washington

Yuri Fateyev


IV In the Details

Sorella Englund

Violette Verdy

Inrina Kolpakova


V In the Sudy

Margaret Mercier

Robert Denvers

Violette Verdy

Richard Thomas





:) It's wonderful!

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That sounds really interesting. I really like reading books with interviews with teachers - you know, about style, what they think, etc., etc. I find that you can pick up some really, really great ideas sometimes there - even little idiosyncratic things. I think I may add this to my wish list - it's about time that I get another shipment from Amazon, anyway. Thanks for posting this!



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