I must have been about six years old when I first began taking ballet lessons and it continued on a fairly consistent basis until about age fourteen. Each week, we arrived and changed into our ballet clothes- soft pink slippers and matching pink leotard (later black leotards). After proper respect to the ballet teacher was given, it was off to the barre to work on our releve, eleve, and plies. We began in first position then second, third, fourth and fifth. For some reason, third has always been my favorite position. (Even today, you’ll often see me sliding into third position and practicing small releves and plies while I wait in the deli line). Arabeque, changement en l’air, passe en pointe… Then, on to the floor for combinations and ending (if we’re lucky) with some choreography.
As a young girl, I adored my ballet lessons and was awed by the ballerinas. I still am. Whenever it has worked with my schedule, I’ve attempted in my adult life to continue to take ballet, and always appreciate the opportunity to see dance live.
Love to watch ballet, check these out:
Coppelia performed by the Australian Ballet and featuring Lisa Pavane and Greg Horsman. This classic story is about a toymaker and a magician who attempt to bring to life the toymaker’s beautiful doll Coppelia.
Giselle performed by the Bolshoi Ballet Company (Moscow) and featuring Natalia Bessmertnova and Mikhail Lavrovsky. When the deceit of Prince Albrecht’s aristocratic background and his current engagement is revealed, tragedy begins for both Giselle and Prince Albrecht who have fallen in love with each other.
Othello performed by the San Francisco Ballet and featuring Desmond Richardson and Yuan Yuan Tan. Shakespeare’s classic tale of passion, jealousy, ambition and loyalty is brought to dance in three acts.
La Bayadere performed by the Ballet De L’Opera De Paris and featuring Isabelle Guerin and Laurent Hilaire. This fully restored version of the original ballet are directed and choreographed by Rudolf Nureyev. This is the story of doomed love between the warrior Solor and the bayadere, Nikiya, who is killed by her jealous rival.
White Nights featuring Mikhail Baryshnokov and Gregory Hines. This Academy Award Winner (1985) features ballet and tap with two legendary dancers. In addition to superb dancing, the story itself is equally engaging. The world of dance and global politics collide in this dramatic and powerful film.
For reading, you may want to take home:
Margot Fonteyn: a Life by Meredith Daneman. B FON The first complete examination of Fonteyn’s life including her rise in British Ballet and later to become one of the world’s most famous ballerinas.
Nureyev: His Life by Diane Solway. Nureyev’s defection from Russia to the United States in 1961 grabbed headlines and triggered heightened Cold War animosities. The Los Angelos Times wrote, “…fascinating…Some reader may be drawn to Solway’s thorough record of Nureyev’s dance career…Others may be fascinated by her detailed and thrilling account of the days leading up to Nureyev’s 1961 defection…But it is Nureyev the man…who is Solway’s greatest creation.”
Private View: Inside Baryshnikov’s American Ballet Theatre by John Fraser 792.84 FRA Another defector from Russia to the United States, the Publisher’s Weekly wrote, “Guiding readers through rehearsals, new productions and a national tour, Fraser offers a tantalizing glimpse of the difficulties of a dancer’s day, and astutely assesses the politics of artistic decision-making…”
The Ballet Goer’s Guide by Mary Clarke and Clement Crisp 792.84 CLA Are you going to a ballet and not sure what it is about? Clarke and Crisp provide history, stories and synopsis of more than 100 ballets.
For the young ballerina in your life, here are a few of my favorite picks:
Rachel Isadora has a number of superb picture books about ballet. All of them are delightful. A few of my favorite include: My Ballet Class is short, simple and perfect for the littlest ballerina. Lili at Ballet explains in more detail about what happens at ballet. Max stands out because it features a baseball-playing boy who also takes ballet. All found in JP ISA
Angelina Ballerina by Katharine Holabird features Angelina, a little mouse, who wants more than anything to dance and be a ballerina. JP HOL
Dancing in the Wings by Debbie Allen. Sassy worries that her big feet, long legs and sassy personality will prevent her from her dream of being a ballerina. JP Illustrated ALL
The Young Ballet Dancer by Liliana Cosi and A Very Young Dancer by Jill Krementz are both excellent books that take you through the typical days and dedication of aspiring ballerinas. J 792.8 COS and J 792.8 KRE respectively.
Ballet Steps: Practice to Performance by Antony Dufort. Using line drawings and photographs, Dufort provides a superb introduction to the steps in ballet. The book is arranged alphabetically for easy access.
Ann Marie is the Library Director of the Oliver Wolcott Library