When I was first approached about reviewing Zoë Anderson’s A Ballet Lover’s Companion, I’ll admit, I had no idea what to expect. The hardcover beauty boasts quite the dreamy cover and I’m a confirmed glutton for pretty packaging, but its 300+ pages detailing the history of the world’s most celebrated ballets do seem daunting. Where does one begin?
Le Spectre de la rose. A ballet whose title I had scarcely heard prior to FBP’s Season 38 photoshoot, in which Mr. Alan Alberto donned the most stunning, ornately-sculpted piece of art to enter our halls since Orchis. The costume, I learned, was that of the rose in Dominic Walsh‘s Spectre de la Rose, a revival of the classic Fokine ballet which FBP will present in October as part of our Ballets Russes Reinvented program.
“Le Spectre de la rose was inspired by poets and roses…Fokine created it quickly in just two or three rehearsals. Built around Nijinksy’s soaring leap and Karasavina’s delicate dramatic presence, the ballet’s success took even Diaghilev by surprise.”
Several paragraphs later and my excitement for our first program is now Nijinsky-level. In a matter of a few page flips, I have located and learned 3 Ballets Russes ballets, Spectre, Afternoon of a Faun, and Firebird, all of which will hit the Vets stage in various “reinvented” forms this October.
Anderson’s account sweeps through the romantic, imperial, national, soviet, booming and international stages of ballet’s history; The ultimate comprehensive reference for those seeking a deeper understanding of an underexposed art form. Though together they form an impressive mass of information, the little histories comprising The Ballet Lover’s Companion read short and sweet. Each begins like the playbill of a ballet, introducing choreographer, music, designs, premiere, and original cast. A brief background of the artists and inspiration behind the work comes next, followed by a synopsis and, if applicable, a listing of any additional stagings. Fun mentions include a shout out to Charles ‘Lil Buck’ Riley’s interpretation of Dying Swan in the Memphis jookin style of hip hop.
The beauty in this book lies in its details. Complete with a ballet terms glossary (finally a logical explanation of character dance for all of my non-dancer friends who raise their brows in the 3rd act of Sleeping Beauty!) and tips like what to look for during a performance, The Ballet Lover’s Companion is bleeding with perspective. In its pages you’ll find the secrets of Balanchine, Manen, Millepied, Mcgregor, Wheeldon, Kylian, Ratmansky, and more. What are you waiting for? Stories beckon…
The Ballet Lover’s Companion, by Zoë Anderson, c/o
photos by me for STB