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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Books: Dance books, dance magazines

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Guest Juliet Shore

Danilova generally has the most amusing quotations on most things!


Thanks for a great list of books, everyone.


Am I the only person who's really enjoyed the new Nureyev biography by Diane Solway? I think she did an excellent job.

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Juliet *S* Thanks for the reminder! - i saw that book at Borders awhile back, and meant to purchase it a little later. Then "got into" a bunch of other books, and forgot. I am so glad you said that, now i will go pick up a copy. *S*



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Guest Pamela Moberg

Thanks everybody for great lists! Here comes some of mine.

My ballet library is rather extensive - as for myself I am very fond of bios. But for the serious student of ballet there are two books which in my opinion are excellent, sensible, straightforward and to be warmly recommended. They are:-

1. "Ballet - from the first plie to mastery -

an eight-year course".

2. "Both sides of the mirror: the science and art of ballet".

Both these books are written by Anna Paskevska who once was my fellow student with Madame Cleo Nordi in London. As Ms. Paskevska points out: "There is a straight line from Vestris-Bournonville-Johansson-Legat-Nordi". It cannot be purer than that. These books should also be read cover to cover by parents of dance pupils.

Then of course, we have the old "Basic principles..." by Vaganova. An oldie, but still holds good - illustrations, though are plain awful.

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Guest Lillian

Juliet, I also loved the Nureyev biography. I couldn't put it down. I also recommend the book "To Dance" by Valery Panov which is a small taste of what he and Galina Panova had to struggle through. What a beautiful dancer she was! And he must have been a wonderful Hamlet.

I also recommend a book mentioned by Alexandra called "Dance is a Contact Sport" by Joseph Manzo which is a gossipy book (a bit hard to find) about NYCB in the seventies. Lots of Gelsey Kirkland bits. Good light ballet read.

I quite like the Steven Caras Balanchine picture book and just ordered an out of print Caras book on Peter Martins from Amazon.com. I've been trying to track it down for years.

I did not enjoy "Tributes" as much as many of you. I wish they'd come out with a book similar to that of Lincoln Kirstein's "New York City Ballet".

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I would like to plug Merrill Ashley's autobiography from almost 20 years ago, "Dancing for Balanchine." It's different from many ballerina autobiographies in that she discusses many nuts-and-bolts aspects of training and performing that other dancers don't go into. This may have something to do with the fact that she was not a spectacular teenage prodigy dancing Concerto Barocco at seventeen. It took some time, and I think it gives her account an unusual perspective.

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Please continue to post on Paquita's Dance Books thread -- what books about ballet you particularly enjoy -- here. (Ballet books, of course!) The first thread is v-e-r-y long.





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Guest Paul W

A great coffee table style book (lots of wonderful historical photos) that I have fun just opening to any page to look at the photos first and then read something about the dancers is: "The Great Russian Dancers" by Gennady Smakov, A.A.Knopf NY 1984. If you want a beautiful introduction to what I'm sure are universally considered some of the greatest dancers of the late 19th and 20th centuries, this is a wonderful book!! It covers 33 different dancers, both male and female. I found the text interesting but can't comment on its historical accuracy. Photos are spectacular!

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Guest Lauren

I don't know if these have been mentioned but Allegra Kent's autobiography is wonderful. I don't think I've ever gotten through a book so fast because I just couldn't stop reading it! Also has anyone seen NYCB's book Tributes? I have it and its really good I just wish there were more pictures! Oh well, I'm interested in other people's suggestions.



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Guest Ruby

Well, most of my dance books seem to fall mostly into the NYCB/Balanchine range, and all of my favorites do. My favorite dance book is most definitely Robert Garis' Following Balanchine, though Garis is somewhat overreaching in his interpretation of Balanchine's work sometimes. I also love my two Balanchine bios, one by Bernard Taper and the other by Richard Buckle. They segue all of the phases of his life together excellently. Then there is Balanchine's Ballerinas, by Robert Tracey, which is sort of old and falling apart but still much-cherished. It's essentially a collection of interviews with all of his great muses/instruments, from Danilova to Kistler. Plus wonderful b/w, full-page pictures! Oh, and absolutely indispensable is Nancy Reynolds' Repertory in Review. Now, it is even older than the previous mention, but the absolute best--comprehensive listing of every ballet ever in the repertory of NYCB and its various predecessors (Ballet Society, Ballet Caravan, etc.). It includes the synopses of the ballets, original costume and set credits, original casts, subsequent casts, music, conductor, and critical excerpts from sundry American and international journals. Also some nice articles about NYCB's founding--I believe written by Lincoln Kirstein--, SAB, short George Balanchine bio, and the like. I love this book; it's a prized possession most undoubtedly, and is never left at home if I'm away. It will of course be with me in NYC this summer! Well, I have other dance books, a few nice ABT books and an ABT souvenir book from '95, and a Kirov souvenir book brought to me by a well-traveled friend a few years ago. Too bad it's all in Cyrillic letters. The rest are a silly medley of children's books--a particularly patronizing offering from Darcey Bussell (!)--and things like Allegra Kent's archaic Dancer's Body Book.


Happy reading,



[This message has been edited by Ruby (edited May 13, 1999).]

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Guest pasdechat

my favorites are the Kay Ambrose "Pocketbook series, the Talia Mara series 1st steps etc., Coffee Table book "The Magic of Dance" by Dame Margot Fonteyn, I guess I'm telling on myself, most of these I've had for many years =)

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Guest Lugo

Thanks Ruby smile.gif - I just finished reading the Taper biography - WONDERFUL! I used to have an aversion to biographies, but now a penchant for them... hmmmm (age? wink.gif)


Thanks for the referrals to the Richard Buckle bio - looking forward to it.


Just thought i'd give an additional praise for a book called "Striking a Balance" by Barbara Newman. I read it quite a while back and listed it as one of my recommended books". Just reread it, and WOW! it is even more incredible the second time around. If you liked Balanchine Ballerinas you'd love Striking a Balance, interviews with Doubrovska, Vilsak, Lifar, Kaye, Shearer, LeClercq, Monnefous, Ananiashvili, Christensen, Youskevitch, Grant, etc.. several have "passed-on" since the interviews took place. Maybe you've read it already, but just had to mention this one again.


Much Aloha!

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Guest Ruby

Lugo, Striking a Balance sounds exactly like what I'm looking for; lately I seem to be in the midst of a shortage of good dance books. I love all of mine, of course, but I've read them and would like to read something without knowing what's ahead. Is the book you mentioned in print, or is it one of those "rare" books? I would be thrilled to find a copy, although even the Barnes & Noble here suffers from a dearth of good dance reads.


Thank you for the recommendation!

Ruby smile.gif

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Lugo, I also like "Striking a Balance" very much. I kept thinking about it during our Swan Lake period, because one of the things I remember about that book was the British ballerinas talking about "Swan Lake" and how difficult it was. I read it wwhen I first discovered ballet, and before I had seen "Swan Lake," so it was odd, indeed! (Barbara Newman also wrote a biography of Antoinette Sibley, but good luck finding it.)


Ruby, it is old, from the mid-'70s, but she did an update a few years ago, with a few new interviews, that was available in paperback.


Have you tried the search engine at Barnes and Noble? The books I have listed on the site is rather minimal. The search engine is helpful for research (you don't have to buy anything to use it!), because if you, say, searched for the Taper biography, it will give you other "suggested" searches, like biographies, dance; or Balanchine; or biographies, ballet, etc.




p.s. They also have a rare books section now, which I found fascinating for browsing. We have a link to that, too.

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Guest Lugo

Hi Ruby & Alexandra *S* - how i loved rereading it. And yes, it is in print, actually reread the newer edition from 1992. ISBN# 0-87910-154-7 if that helps you at least order a copy. Barbara Newman updated information and included 4 additional interviews in this edition. Also since the first edition in 1982, she says than more than 10 of the dancers she interviewed have passed-on.


Thanks for the tip about the biography of Antoinette Sibley, wish me "Merde" finding it. wink.gif My hubby says i read too fast, and is complaining that it's getting expensive to keep me in reading material. *lol* But i'm loving every minute of it.


Much Aloha

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