The Royal’s corps of swans, photographed by company member Andrej Uspenski.
Dancers: Behind the Scenes with The Royal Ballet.
By Andrej Uspenski. Oberon Books. 144 pages. $60.
Andrej Uspenski is a first artist with The Royal Ballet. He also has a passion for photography and his unique position in the ballet company has given him a rare opportunity to combine both talents. The result is this splendid, large coffee-table book with over 200 photographs that chronicle intimate moments backstage at the Royal Opera House, London. The only text surrounding the pictures is the dancers’ names, allowing the photos to speak for themselves.
Uspenski has been focusing his lens on colleagues for several years now. The dancers—from corps members to principals—are at ease in his presence and trust him, thus allowing him to capture intimate shots that most official photographers miss. Amongst them is a saucy picture of Alina Cojocaru (now with English National Ballet) surrounded by electrical wiring, looking as though she were plugging in her batteries for the next grueling rehearsal; a weary dancer, catching 40 winks with head down on his cluttered dressing table; Marianela Nuñez’s jeté, soaring high above the cluster of girls standing at the barre. Then there is the bewitching shot of soloist Claire Calvert’s half face, one sparkling lash-framed eye, heavily outlined with mascara, peeking out of the curtain before performance. On the back cover, Carlos Acosta and Natalia Osipova, in their Swan Lake costumes, also look out at the huge auditorium. With such sharp and vital photos, the reader gets a real taste of what it is like to be a dancer. —Margaret Willis
Through the Eyes of a Dancer.
Wesleyan University Press. $29.95.
Dance Magazine editor in chief Wendy Perron’s new book of her collected dance writings from The Village Voice, The New York Times, Dance Magazine, and other publications.
Ballet Initiative Podcast
Traveling this holiday season? Consider downloading a few of Christian Cudnik’s Ballet Initiative podcasts onto your iPhone or Android device before you go. Spanning 18 to 45 minutes, each episode brings you one step closer to the dancers you love with thorough and intimate interviews conducted by Cudnik. But the Emmy Award-winning St. Louis–based radio broadcaster makes it clear that the show’s not about him; the subjects, including Sara Mearns, Joy Womack, and Matthew Neenan, among others, get to do as much talking as they’d like. For starters, download the two-part interview with legendary danseur Jacques d’Amboise. Witty and sincere, d’Amboise expounds on the juicy details in his book I Was a Dancer, giving you an insider’s earful about New York City Ballet and Balanchine in its heyday. Free on iTunes and Stitcher, or stream them from the web: www.balletinitiative.com/podcast. —Jenny Dalzell
Above: Sara Mearns with Jared Angle in
Swan Lake. Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB.
Below: Guillem in Mats Ek’s
BYE. Photo by Lesley Leslie-Spinks.
Kultur. 39 minutes. $19.99.
When ballet superstar Sylvie Guillem wanted a choreographer to challenge her beyond her comfort zone, she chose Mats Ek. The maverick Swedish dance artist (see “2013 Dance Magazine Awards,” page 36) obliged by creating BYE, a rampaging, loopy-meets-precise, poignant solo for this French ballerina, still exquisite in her 40s. He did her the service of deflating her natural elegance and replacing it with a kind of recklessness. She turns herself into one of Ek’s people: strong, willful, expansive, whimsical, obsessive—with a touch of uncouth idealism. He has said this piece is “about a woman who takes leave of a certain stage in her life. It is a conversation that she has with herself that leads to new experiences.” In this self-to-self dialogue, mimelike gestures like swatting a hand in front of her face alternate with gorgeous port de bras and those endless legs extending into space. The movement is disjointed yet full-bodied. If it were possible for Guillem to be ungainly it would be here. But her natural charm and courage emerge in the guise of a slightly cartoonish, healthily defiant, older and wiser Pippi Longstocking. —Wendy Perron
CDS FOR CLASS
Les Ballets Russes, Vol. 9
SCM Hänssler. 74 minutes. $17.67.
SCM Hänssler’s ninth installment of music from Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes era features Le Train Bleu (by Darius Milhaud), Les Femmes de Bonne Humeur (Vincenzo Tommasini), and La Chatte (Henri Sauguet). They’re not the most well known scores—compared to Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring or Debussy’s Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun—but for anyone considering classic works for new dances, these three are worth revisiting.
West End to Broadway, Vol. 2
David’s Dance Scores. 72 minutes. $25.
British accompanist David Plumpton plays traditional ballet class music with an amusing show-tune twist. Tracks include songs from Mamma Mia!, Pippin, Oliver!, Legally Blonde, Grease, Avenue Q, and many more musicals. The packaging includes time signature and phrasing, letting you know just how many tendus, for instance, might fit in before the track ends.
Ballet Class: Piano Music From Hawaii
West Hawaii Dance Theatre/Kona Sunset Records. 58 minutes. $25
While mainlanders might only recognize the tune for pliés, “Aloha Oe,” Megumi Kopp’s soothing arrangements will transport all dancers to the sandy beaches of Hawaii. It’s best for an intermediate class; some of the textured melodies might be too complex for new students. —J.D.