STRIKING A BALANCE: Dancers Talk About Dancing by Barbara Newman

STRIKING A BALANCE: Dancers Talk About Dancing

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Interviews (the question side left out) with 24 retired and active ballet dancers--some of them crisply articulate, many of them British, most of them concentrating on their interpretations of classical roles. Newman offers a single-page introduction to each speaker, a bare biographical summary plus an often-gushy paragraph of personal appreciation. (On Peter Martins: ""Can you believe that one dancer possesses a Praxitelean body, a flawless but never bloodless technique, a natural musicality, and a sense of humor?"") But the dance stars themselves are an engagingly un-gushy crew, with--since Newman steers the conversation to a few favorite ballets--intriguing, sometimes violent contrasts. Serge Lifar (b. 1905) briefly recalls his '29 dancing of Balanchine's Prodigal Son, lamenting that the ""great duet is now pornographic"". . . while Desmond Kelly (b. 1942) revels in the detailed eroticism of the revised Prodigal. (Meanwhile, Lifar's own choreography is being jauntily dismissed by Jean-Pierre Bonnefous.) Igor Youskevitch recalls his Albrecht in Giselle (with an inflexible Alicia Markova), finds fault with Baryshnikov's. Lynn Seymour recreates her Juliet, Christopher Gable his Romeo. There are varied approaches to Giselle and Swan Lake from Alicia Alonso, Toni Lander, Bruce Marks (""no one does Swan Lake like I did it. . . I took chances on doing things in a way that was un-princelike""), Nadia Nerina, Beryl Grey, Antoinette Sibley. The N.Y.C. Ballet dancers--Martins, Bonnefous, Tanaquil LaClerq, Merrill Ashley--inevitably talk largely of Balanchine: his elegance, his musicality, his lack of pretensions, the challenge in his work. And despite Newman's own apparent leaning toward the Royal Ballet and the romantic classics, the discussion is more stimulating when the Balanchine/Robbins repertory is onstage--though the single most endearing voice here is that of Moira Shearer (""Red Shoes was the last thing I wanted to do""). A little old-fashioned and Anglophilic in orientation, then, for most serious American dance fans--but nonetheless a rich, often down-to-earth mix of anecdotes, ballet history, technical insights, and performance close-ups.

Pub Date: April 26th, 1982
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin