Gifts for the holidays: books & videos.
This holiday season, there are two new biographies for preteens, both of which are appropriate for advanced younger and older readers: Anna Pavlova--Genius of the Dance by Ellen Levine (Scholastic, $14.951 and Letter to the World--The Life and Dances of Martha Graham, by Trudy Garfunkel (Little, Brown & Co., $15.951. Both books use the dancers' own words to express what it means to be an artist and the words of their contemporaries to bear witness. Each is approximately one hundred page5, divided into brief chapters, with ample pictures and an excellent bibliography. They are well worth reading.
Pavlova (1881-1931), who trained at the Imperial Ballet School in St. Petersburg, Russia, was one of the last prerevolutionary ballerinas. Traveling the world with her own company, she introduced ballet to thousands, and her name became indelibly associated with the image of the ballerina as swan. By the time of Pavlova's death, Graham (1894-1991), an American dancer trained at the Denishawn School of Dance, was already creating a new and original dance form, shaped by her own physicality and individuality. While Pavlova crossed many geographic borders, Graham explored uncharted physical and psychological territory in her dances. These women from different cultures, who danced in radically different ways, shared a fierce psychological and emotional commitment to their art.
Interestingly, the style of each biography mirrors that of the artist portrayed. Levine's writing, rich with anecdotes of Pavlova's life, captures the ballerina through a gauzy curtain of romantic images. From her first visit to the ballet, when "Anna held her breath, afraid to move, wrapped in the spell of this enchantment" to her dying words, "Get my Swan costume ready," the book reaffirms the glamour forever associated with the legend.
Garfunkel's book on Graham has the forthright directness one associates with the thoroughly modern artist. Appropriately, Garfunkel devotes much of the book to describing and detailing the significance of key works, not only in the context of Graham's career, but also as revelations of the possibilities of theatrical dance in a changing world. Graham said, "No artist is ahead of his time. He is his time." The profound influence of her collaborators from music and sculpture, Louis Horst and Isamu Noguchi, respectively, is clearly noted.
Picture books with sugary illustrations dominate the market for younger readers. Rachel Isadora's Lili on Stage (Putnam, $15.95) chronicles the backstage experience of a child performing in Nutcracker and would be a lovely keepsake for any audience member. Isadora's My Ballet Diary, (Putnam, $15.95) gives ballet students on opportunity to record their own experiences, but the illustrations gear it inappropriately toward the younger student, and Isadora's attempt to include historical information is careless. In Shoes of Satin, Ribbons of Silk--Tales from the Ballet (Kingfisher, $16.95), Antonia Barber beautifully translates the plots of 19th- and early 20th-century ballets into stories.
For those compiling holiday wish lists, videotapes from the new Balanchine Collection would be a boon to those who are looking for extraordinary choreography and dancing. Informative documentaries with wonderful dance excerpts ore Bill T. Jones--Dancing to the Promised Land (View Video, 30.001 and Martha Graham: The Dancer Revealed (Kultur, $24.95). Points in Space (Kultur, $39.95) documents t he working process of choreographer Merce Cunningham and composer John Cage with a full performance of the dance Points in Space. For technical tips, Roni Mahler's tapes (Video South Productions, $62.95) are excellent, and for class, master teacher David Howard's videos (David Howard/Pattie Bryson Productions, $39.95) offer a lively workout.
One of the best sources for videos and books is Dance Horizons Videos (12 W. Delaware Ave., Pennington, NJ 08534; phone (800) 220-7149 or fax (609) 737-1869). Ask for their catalogue. While you're at it, your holiday list might include a gift membership to the Dance Book Club (same address and telephone numbers). That will keep you reading well into the New Year.
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|Title Annotation:||books on dance|
|Author:||Thom, Rose Anne|
|Date:||Dec 1, 1995|
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