The Ballet Companion : A Dancer's Guide to the Technique, Traditions, and Joys of Ballet
A New Classic for Today's Dancer
The Ballet Companion is a fresh, comprehensive, and thoroughly up-to-date reference book for the dancer. With 150 stunning photographs of ballet stars Maria Riccetto and Benjamin Millepied demonstrating perfect execution of positions and steps, this elegant volume brims with everything today's dance student needs, including:
Practical advice for getting started, such as selecting a school, making the most of class, and studio etiquette
Explanations of ballet fundamentals and major training systems
An illustrated guide through ballet class -- warm-up, barre, and center floor
Guidelines for safe, healthy dancing through a sensible diet, injury prevention, and cross-training with yoga and Pilates
Descriptions of must-see ballets and glossaries of dance, music, and theater terms
Along the way you'll find technique secrets from stars of American Ballet Theatre, lavishly illustrated sidebars on ballet history, and tips on everything from styling a ballet bun to stage makeup to performing the perfect pirouette.
Whether a budding ballerina, serious student, or adult returning to ballet, dancers will find a lively mix of ballet's time-honored traditions and essential new information.
Gaynor Minden, a former dancer who now heads a dancewear company, has been immersed in the world of ballet for much of her life, and in this book shares dancer-to-dancer advice, much of which is aimed at beginning-to-intermediate level dancers, or adults who are either starting or returning to a childhood passion; dancers who have been committed to the art for a couple of years will already know on the finer points of finding a school, how to behave in class and the basic positions and movements, though the crisp photographs of professionals demonstrating steps are quite useful. The chapter on pointework, Gaynor Minden's specialty, is more widely valuable, and the pages devoted to dancer health contain vital information on eating disorders, injuries and supplemental physical training that teachers and students of all levels would do well to review. Brief sections called "The Curious Dancer" give introductions to ballet-related skills and trivia (how to apply stage makeup; ballet on Broadway), as well as intermittent features on great ballet companies and famous dancers of both early and modern times. Her explanation of the differences between the six major ballet styles, along with the superb glossaries of terms and dance history timeline, make this book a valuable resource for dance studios and a great primer for dancers in the early stages of training.
Copyright (c) Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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October 03, 2005
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Excerpt from The Ballet Companion by Eliza Gaynor Minden
Introduction When Anna Pavlova was a young dancer in Russia, she faced stiff competition from a bevy of imported hotshot Italian ballerinas. With their tricked-out shoes and their formidable technique they performed marvels on full pointe: endless balances, dazzling pirouettes, even an unheard-of thirty-two fouettès. Pavlova toiled to make herself into a virtuosa in their mold. Fortunately her teacher Pavel Gerdt advised her to leave off the tricks and turns and focus on developing her own innate qualities: delicacy, lyricism, expressivity. In the end Pavlova triumphed as a Romantic dancer at a time when hard-boiled classicism was all the rage, and she went on to foment balletomania the world over. Of course, she never stopped working on her technique; she even got the greatest Italian ballet master of all, Enrico Cecchetti, to give private lessons to her and no one else. And she did adopt the newfangled Italian shoes (albeit doctored in her secret way), but not just for flash or bravura. Pavlova did the opposite: she used pointework to convey achingly beautiful vulnerability. Pavlova became a legend by tapping into her genius for self-expression rather than by technique alone. She cultivated her own eloquent "voice." And you can do the same even if you never set foot on a stage. Certainly executing steps well provides tremendous satisfaction. But ballet's joy lies not just in doing steps; it's in dancing them -- in the pleasure of expression through movement, of union with music, of singing with your body. I hope this book helps you not only in developing proficiency but also in discovering your voice. The Ballet Companion offers a discussion of technique that is not just how to, but why. You already know what tendus are because you do them in class. But you may not realize why you do so many, or that the meaning of the word in French ("stretched") defines the quality of the movement, or that a famous choreographic passage, the opening of Balanchine's Theme and Variations, is based on them -- or how by perfecting your tendu you can improve your technique overall. Throughout the book, I connect the work you do in class to the bigger picture. That picture, of course, includes performance. Looking as much as doing sparked my own love of ballet. My Wrst impressions were formed watching Fonteyn and Nureyev, Baryshnikov, Fracci, Makarova in Swan Lake, Kirkland in Giselle, and the opening night (a school night at that) of Balanchine's 1972 Stravinsky Festival with its landmark premieres. Granted, that's a hard act to follow, but every generation has its own superb dancers. Let today's inspire you. In the back of this book you will find a collection of choreographic "greatest hits" along with some of my favorites that are less well known. Go to the ballet as often as you can. If you can see a work repeatedly, that's even better. A second or third viewing reveals the craftsmanship in the choreography and lets you compare different interpretations. In deciding what you admire and what you don't, what you allow to influence you and what you reject, you will shape your own character as a dancer. Sometimes the first step toward finding your voice is to realize that it's okay to have one. This book is generously sprinkled with nuggets of ballet history that show how often a distinctive choreographic or performing personality has influenced and enriched ballet. Things we take for granted today -- the one-act ballet, the tutu, the overhead lift, the blocked pointe shoe, even women dancing professionally -- all were innovations in their time and sometimes bitterly resisted. Dance history is full of skirmishes between rebels and traditionalists, but ultimately dance embraces new voices and rewards those who take risks. As a student I was captivated by ballet history and contrived to write every school term p