Still wondering what Christmas present to get for the dance lovers or converts in your life?  Here is a reminder of some great publications that ODW has recently reviewed, including fascinating historic biographies and stunning photography, plus an extremely tempting DVD… click on the links provided for reviews and details of where to purchase.  Particular thanks to Maggie Watson for the informative and perceptive reviews she has contributed.

Nadine Meisner 2019  Marius Petipa: the emperor’s ballet master

A major and groundbreaking volume, nominated for the Outstanding Creative Contribution in this year’s National Dance Awards (to be announced 19th February 2020). This is the first English language biography of the great ballet master behind such iconic works as Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker, massively influential in ballet’s development.  Full of historic detail it paints a fascinating picture of an intriguing character and the colourful world of 19th century ballet, giving tantalising glimpses of other forgotten works.  Essential reading; for further information read Maggie Watson’s review here  As an alternative to buying online, why not check it out alongside other fascinating dance publications by Oxford University Press at the OUP Bookshop, 116-117 High St, Oxford OX1 4BZ.

Michael Meylac 2018  Behind the Scenes at the Ballets Russes: stories from a silver age

For reviewer Maggie Watson “There is never a dull moment in this collection of interviews with dancers associated in one way or another with the various companies collectively described as the ‘Ballets Russes’.” Professor Michael Meylac has tracked the historic diaspora of dancers from the Ballets Russes companies across the world, and the lively reminiscences he has elicited from a wide range of artists paint a vivid picture of often racketty professional existence, including memories of some of the great teachers bringing Russian ballet schooling to the West.  A hugely entertaining read, check out Maggie’s review here

Darcey Bussell 2018  Darcey Bussell: Evolved

An autobiography partly narrated through the lens of the professional camera; a chatty album whose portrait “snaps” of its likable protagonist happen to be by photographic luminaries including Annie Leibovitz, Arthur Elgort, John Swannell, Lord Snowdon and Richard Avedon, as well as distinguished dance photographers such as Bill Cooper, Anthony Crickmay and Chris Nash. It tracks the intriguing development of a career beyond the Royal Ballet for this beautiful ballerina as model and media personality.  Read Susie Crow’s review of this luxurious coffee table book here and read Maggie Watson’s report of Darcey Bussell interviewed by Nick Higham at the Oxford Literary Festival here

Rick Guest 2019  Edward Watson: Portrait of a Dancer

You would need a substantial Christmas shopping budget to be able to afford this portfolio of Rick Guest’s stunning large format photographs of a particular muse, the remarkable and individual Royal Ballet star Edward Watson.  Maggie and Susie went to hear Guest and Watson in entertaining and thought-provoking conversation about their work together earlier this year at the National Portrait Gallery; read Maggie’s account here.  There are other volumes of Guest’s extraordinary portraits of dancers available at more affordable prices; read Maggie’s account here of his exhibition What Lies Beneath which is now available as a book.  Check this out along with examples of the Watson portraits here

Richard Allen Cave & Anna Meadmore eds. 2018  Robert Helpmann: the many faces of a theatrical dynamo

This collection of articles by dance academics and practitioners on the charismatic and multifaceted dancer and actor Robert Helpmann is a timely and valuable addition: as Maggie says, “enlightening, entertaining and scholarly”.  Emerging from the research leading to Birmingham Royal Ballet’s 2014 restaging of Helpmann’s powerful ballet Miracle in the Gorbals, it brings this major figure back into the limelight; including some of his own writings and a DVD with fascinating interviews and documentary footage.  Essential reading for those interested in the development of British Ballet during and after WW2.  Read Maggie’s review here

And finally…

Queen + Béjart: Ballet for Life

Available on DVD or Blu-ray this double bill includes not only historic live action capture of Queen and the Béjart Ballet in Ballet for Life, but also the fascinating recent documentary about the work by director Lynne Wake and producer Simon Lupton.  Edited by Emmy Award winner Christopher Bird, it tells the story of Ballet for Life and its success, featuring the great and the good of both rock and dance, including: Brian May, Roger Taylor, Gil Roman, Wayne Sleep and Arlene Phillips. The full performance at Théâtre Métropole, Lausanne in June 1997 was captured and directed by David Mallet, known specifically for directing live performance concerts of such megastars as Tina Turner, David Bowie, The Rolling Stones, and numerous Queen videos including Bicycle Race, Radio Ga Ga, I Want to Break Free and Freddie’s classic The Great Pretender video.  It includes incredible archive footage of Freddie Mercury, Maurice Béjart, and Queen, as well as Gianni Versace and his stunning costume designs. This release also includes a substantial segment of John Deacon’s final performance with Queen, taken from Ballet for Life international premiere with Elton John in Paris.

Ballet for Life was a unique collaboration between three cultural brands: Queen, Versace and the late visionary choreographer Maurice Béjart, celebrating the life and talents of legendary performers, Freddie Mercury and Béjart Ballet Lausanne’s former principal dancer, Jorge Donn, both of whom died of AIDS in the nineties. For Maurice Béjart, choreography was about the cycle of life, youth and hope, as well as life triumphing over death.  Already presented over 350 times around the world, this ballet continues to tour widely.  Those of us attending the DANSOX summer school in July were lucky enough to see a showing of Lynne Wake’s excellent documentary, which incorporates live footage of a new generation of stunning dancers rehearsing this powerful work.  A real Christmas treat; you can buy the double bill online here

Happy Christmas!

Rick Guest’s stunningly beautiful photographs of Edward Watson vividly illustrate the impact on twenty-first century dance aesthetics of our renewed interest in the male body. On Friday night, in a conversation expertly chaired by dance critic Sarah Crompton as part of the National Portrait Gallery’s Friday Lates talks series, Guest described how he first came to photograph Watson as the result of a commission for The Economist’s Intelligent Life magazine. He was initially taken aback by how slight Watson seemed in rather flat light, then a sudden shaft illuminated Watson’s face, giving him the photograph he needed, and Watson the impetus to project his personality in response to the camera. (more…)

Woolf Works opens with a recording of Virginia Woolf herself reading from her lecture On Craftsmanship, “Words, English words, are full of echoes, memories, associations …”. If the purpose of ballet is ultimately communication, Wayne McGregor has set himself a problem: how is it possible to add to what Virginia Woolf has already said with words in the three books that inspire the ballet? The depth and density of Woolf’s writing as she moves in and out of the minds of her characters cannot be directly replicated in dance, but by taking themes in the novels as a jumping-off ground, McGregor and his dancers are able to use movement to delve into the human psyche. (more…)

Rick Guest’s What Lies Beneath strips away the glamour from the dancer’s life and yet this exhibition in the gleaming white gallery at the Hospital Club is magnificently glamorous. Guest captures his subjects against luminous blue backgrounds in larger than life portraits that show the physical and psychological strain that lies behind every performance. He has allowed the dancers to reveal themselves as they wish, whether that is confident and in control, hesitant and uncertain or contemplative. They wear battered old practice clothes, their skin is scratched and bruised, and they have bunions, moles and body hair. There is a tension between the perfection and yet imperfection of their extraordinarily beautiful bodies. (more…)

Photographer Rick Guest‘s latest publication What Lies Beneath accompanies the exhibition of the same name to be held at the Hospital Club Gallery in January 2016.  Featuring an incredible range of companies such as The Royal Ballet, The English National Ballet, The Richard Alston Dance Company, The Dresden Semperoper, The Royal Danish Ballet and Wayne McGregor Random Dance, it includes images of dancers such as Alban Lendorf, Tamara Rojo, Sergei Polunin, Sarah Lamb, Steven McRae, Zenaida Yanowsky, Edward Watson, Olivia Cowley, Nehemiah Kish, Hikaru Kobayashi, Federico Bonelli, and Yuhui Choe.  With a foreword by Tamara Rojo, Director and Lead Principal of the English National Ballet and an incisive essay by Sarah Crompton, this book is in a limited first run of 1000 copies, exquisitely printed by PUSH Print, and is in a large format, 300mm x 370mm.

Rick Guest writes:

“I wanted to make a series of portraits of the dancers themselves, as opposed to dancers dancing, to show the character that underpins their performance, to see the determination and sacrifice that it takes to succeed at such a high level.  In an art form that deliberately conceals the enormity of effort that goes into its creation, we are not meant to see behind the curtain, but I think that this does a great disservice to the dancers, and that having a sense of what lies beneath both enhances our experience of the performance and leads to a more profound appreciation of the dancer’s essential being.  These portraits are at once beautiful and brutal.”

What Lies Beneath is available from 15th December 2105 from rg-books.com
Further work can be viewed at rg-dance.com

Check out information about Rick Guest’s previous book of photographs The Language of the Soul here

Exhibition What Lies Beneath

Dates:  22nd-31st January 2016

Venue:  The Hospital Club Gallery, 24 Endell Street, London WC2H 9HQ

The Hospital Club Gallery

 

The Language of the Soul by photographer Rick Guest features images from his 2014 Exhibition at The Hospital Club Gallery, as well as many more in the series.  Working in collaboration with stylist Olivia Pomp, and featuring such luminary dancers as Edward Watson, Tamara Rojo, Marianela Nuñez, Steven McRae, Sarah Lamb, Sergei Polunin, Zenaida Yanowsky, Nehemiah Kish and Melissa Hamilton, it also includes portraits of Wayne McGregor, Kevin O’Hare, Liam Scarlett and Christopher Wheeldon.  With a foreword by Kevin O’Hare, Director of The Royal Ballet, this book is in a limited first run of 1000 copies, exquisitely printed by PUSH Print, and is in a large format, 300mm x 370mm.

Rick Guest writes:

“Ballet as an art form has always been a collaborative medium, whereby composers, orchestras, choreographers, dancers, artists and impresarios have come together to create something new, something greater than the individual elements. With this in mind, I have deliberately turned away from using photography to document dance as it’s staged for the audience, as important as that is. Instead, I have concentrated on the bringing together of three separate disciplines, that of photography, fashion and dance, in an attempt to create something new and singular.
Away from the constraints of stage, role and costume, the dancers are able to demonstrate their breathtaking capabilities in an uninhibited atmosphere, one that ultimately leads to a purer portrait of the dancers themselves. These images aim to illustrate the key tenets of balletic technique; balance, strength and poise. They are lit and photographed to enhance each dancers’ power and beauty, both physical and emotional, and the images are infused with a fashion edge that is at the same time evocative and playful.”

The Language of the Soul is available from the 15th December 2015 from rg-books.com

Further work can be viewed at rg-dance.com

It is a great privilege to see one of the great ballets of the 21st century so early in its history. I did not witness the original production of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, nor of The Rite of Spring; but I have seen the very first production of Christopher Wheeldon’s The Winter’s Tale and that is a truly special thing.

To explain why this particular ballet is so special is very difficult. It was danced beautifully of course, to a standard of excellence which we have come to expect from the Royal Ballet, and the costuming and scenery were meticulous, as they so often are. And yet, I have struggled immensely to write this review. In desperate times I draw on my old friend, cliché: words cannot begin to describe the exquisite nature of this ballet; it has to be seen to be believed! (more…)