FAR FROM DENMARK by Peter with Robert Cornfield Martins


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Unlike the soul-baring Christopher d'Amboise (above), New York City Ballet star Martins is all business--blessedly so--in this brief, rather bland, but quietly impressive memoir/credo. Raised and trained in Copenhagen, Peter was ""a rowdy, quarrelsome, snotty kid, completely undisciplined""--till teacher Stanley Williams at the Royal Danish Ballet School inspired him with the Danish ballet tradition: ""Dance with responsibility to the steps. . . . The stress was on correctness and quality, not on extravagant virtuosity."" So membership in the Royal Danish company soon followed, a quick rise to principal dancer. But then, substituting for an injured Jacques d'Amboise in an Edinburgh NYCB-tour performance of Apollo, Martins met Balanchine--who said: ""You know you do it all wrong."" Nevertheless, Martins became a frequent NYCB guest artist and then a company member--surviving Balanchine's ridicule (a ""nasty experience""), overcoming his inbred reserve and coolness, adapting to the energetic not-so-pure Balanchine style (""playing with accents . . . salt-and-peppering the steps""), learning to appreciate the Balanchine genius: ""doing the minimal yet getting the maximal effect."" And the rest of the book, then, focuses on the major aspects of Martin's NYCB career: rehearsals with the loose, impressionistic Balanchine (""Make it look like an elephant trunk, and then move out your hand as if you're asking for money"") and the exacting Jerome Robbins (""Every movement, every bit of phrasing, every glance, the force of a touch, the width of a hand, everything was specifically named and demanded""), partnering techniques, with Suzanne Farrell (and less endearing ballerinas); happy colleague-ship with Villella, Baryshnikov, and others; and his recent emergence as a choreographer--with Balanchine as a generous, amused, amusing mentor. Don't look for gossip or stormy feelings here, then. (Martins mentions his romance with Heather Watts only when it affects his choreography for her.) But, with over 100 photos, this precise, pleasant scrapbook of dance-thoughts and crisp anecdotes should be one of the more welcome ballet-books of the year.

Pub Date: Oct. 26th, 1982
Publisher: Little, Brown