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Books: Portrait of a Danish Dancer

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Guest Michael

I think that Part II of the book is also extremely important in preserving, by Kronstam's narration, so many of the great roles in the repertory. (Which may well otherwise have been lost). One feels one has not only seen Kronstam dance, but has seen the Ballets performed as they should be and as I will probably never have a chance to see them. Kronstam's way of looking at his roles and these ballets taught me by extension what amounts to a new way of looking at ballet in general. His voice and spirit, as they appear in these pages, are very beautiful.

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  • Alexandra


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  • glebb


The cabriole photo is remarkable - but I have always focussed on how much Kronstam seems to be enjoying what he is creating. Like a kid on a swing. Not so much "look at me" as "yessss".


As someone who saw Kronstam dance and admired him as a person and a truly great dancer, I consider Alexandra's book a pure gift. For those of us who wanted to follow his career from afar, there were the rare RDB tours and very little press (and no Ballet Alert!). The book gave me such a warm and complex picture of his life and his work. The photographs were wonderful, depicting not only his performances and some corners of his personal life but also his teaching and his rehearsal time. For some reason I can't describe, I also love the rehearsal photo of Hoopla with Murray Louis - Kronstam's concentration, even in the random moment captured by the camera, is so evident. The use of Kronstam's own words throughout the book made it almost seem an oral autobiography - especially fun were the times when the dry humor peeks through the darkness.


What I find so touching is how the book is reaching people who were not fortunate enough to see Kronstam during his lifetime, even inducing melancholy (a lovely turn of phrase). You see, Alexandra - maybe you were wrong. You told Kronstam that 50 years after death dancers are either a few photographs in a book or a book - but maybe Henning will have a different legacy, reminding future dancers and ballet lovers how to truly bring their life into their art - "this breathlessness" of creation.

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Victoria Leigh

I have been saving this book for this particular weekend, because I'm doing an audition tour to New England by train! No better place for concentrated reading :) I have 4 days and a lot train hours, so really looking forward to it!!!

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Guest Calliope

I have to admit, I haven't read it yet, I don't know much about Royal Danish or Kronstam. which is probably why I should read it! But everyone's comments have pushed me to go get it, so I'm ordering from Amazon today!

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I've said it before elsewhere, but I'll say it again, because I think it bears repeating. Even though I could and did see other male dancers live and on television, Kronstam was my TV hero (take that, Marshal Dillon!) even more so than Erik Bruhn. Not that I didn't like Bruhn; far from that. Kronstam was just such a more approachable dancer on the small screen and his personality read large there. Bruhn was best onstage, but by the time I'd seen him so, I'd already been convinced that the Danish dancer I most admired as a role model for what to do and how to act was Kronstam.:)

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Nancy Dalva of Dance Insider reviewed the January 18th performance of Davidsbundlertanze, using an anecdote from Alexandra's book. Dalva cites Alexandra's passage describing Kronstam coaching Thomas Lund. Kronstam tells Lund that Ashton didn't like smiling during performance, preferring a polite face, a mild face: "Look at the mirror and try to make happy eyes." Dalva then uses this imagery to describe the particular power of Kyra Nichols' performance. For the full review,



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  • 1 month later...

I've just begun Part III and I LOVE IT!


This book is easy to read and highly informative.

Fun stories - (Mamma Verdy and those scissors!)


Strongly recommended for new Ballet Alert members. :)

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Thank you, Glebb. :) I didn't want to bump the thread back up myself, but since you did, I'll take the opportunity to thank the people reading this who came to the book signing two weeks ago. There were several Ballet Alertniks there (but I was also very pleased that about two-thirds of the people there I didn't know, and when they came to have the book signed, some said they'd never heard of Kronstam but saw the book in the window and were ballet fans, and so.....)


The Barnes and Noble Event Coordinator was quite pleased at the turnout -- they had very low expectations, apparently. She kept saying, " This was great! You had so many people!" And, since my agent had had to press to get the signing, I asked her to please remember this the next time someone came along with a dance book! So you all did something for The Cause :)

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Looking forward to the Chicago book signing. :)

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I wish! It would be worth doing, because of the Ruth Page connection, but I don't think it's in the cards. Thanks for the idea, though!

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Cute, guys :( But I don't think that a cross-country book tour is in the cards for this, or any other dance book! You'll just have to come east.

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Guest Ed Waffle

There has been a well-deserved chorus of praise for “Henning Kronstam: Portrait of a Danish Dancer” by Alexandra Tomolanis. Alexandra makes the subtitle clear in the Preface, but like any good biography of this type, this one illuminates the artistic climate around Kronstam, both during his development and his maturity. That environment, how it helped shaped the dancer and how the dancer helped to shape it, is an integral and most welcome aspect here.


Alexandra’s prose style is very clear, almost transparent—in other words, perfect for a work like this. She tells what happened to Kronstam at different times, often from several points of view, and allows the reader to draw conclusions. While I have no idea of how Alexandra works, I would think that a style this clean and clear takes a lot of work to accomplish—making things look easy is often quite difficult. The style reminds me of the two-volume “Otto Klemperer, His Life and Times” by Peter Heyworth. Heyworth was a music critic for the “Times” of London for many years—perhaps there is something about writing on deadline about many different performances over the years that helps to hone such a clear style.


Alexandra describes many emotional or touching scenes from Kronstam’s life—one in particular is the funeral of Vera Volkova, an extremely important person in his artistic development and in the survival and development of the Royal Danish Ballet. It is a very moving account, told from the point of view of both Kronstam and also of a third-party observer. The account begins simply but powerfully: “At the end of the season, in May, Vera Volkova died.” This sentence explains volumes—most importantly, a revered teacher had died, and when. But the “when” is not only in May, but at the end of the season, making it clear how time is measured in a ballet company, performing season by performing season. It also sets the stage (if you will) perfectly for the account of the funeral which follows, how Kronstam acted during that funeral, what he expected of others and why, and how he responded when those expectations were not fulfilled. That is just one sentence in one paragraph of a work of over 500 pages, but the book is full of such gems.


It is the type of book that has become scarce—one written for the normally literate layperson with an interest but not much specialized knowledge in an art form. There are now many more books devoted to science that do this than the performing arts. The reader doesn’t have to know much about the technical side of ballet to appreciate this book—although those with that knowledge certainly may have a more profound understanding of it.

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Guest Giannina

In the March 2003 issue of Dancing Times , page 59, there's a glowing review of Alexandra's book by Katherine Sorley Walker. Nothing but praise (and richly deserved, right, fellas?).



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