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Ballet's Magic Kingdom: Selected Writings on Dance in Russia, 1911-1925 Hardcover – December 9, 2008

4.3 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"An exhilarating gathering of writings by a profoundly influential critic, and a striking, startling contribution to the historical record."—Simon Morrison, Princeton University
(Simon Morrison)

“An extremely important contribution to the literature on dance.”—Lynn Garafola, author of The Ballet Russes and Its World
(Lynn Garafola)

“Volynsky's detailed and perceptive reviews of dancers and dancing at the Maryinsky Theater—until now unavailable in English—are fascinating and illuminating; his legendary Book of Exaltations turns out to be both as tendentious and as brilliant as its reputation suggested it was. In tackling and bringing to fruition this important project, Stanley Rabinowitz has performed an immense service to the dance literature."—Robert Gottlieb, author of George Balanchine: The Ballet Maker
(Robert Gottlieb)

“Only a scholar of Stanley Rabinowitz's erudition and experience could navigate the treacherous waters of Russian cultural politics in the early twentieth century, the tempestuous world of Russian and Soviet dance, and the thorny contradictions of Volynsky's thought and syntax to bring these invaluable documents into English. Dance is in his debt.”—Tim Scholl, author of Sleeping Beauty, a Legend in Progress
(Tim Scholl)

"Rabinowitz’s near-miraculous translations of this eccentric Russian critic/philosopher’s sequential reviews put the reader in the theater, and bring back to life perhaps the most important years in the history of ballet—those leading up to and beyond the great cataclysm of the Russian revolution. As Akim Volynsky wrestles with the meaning of an art, the art itself spills out into his pages. This is the best kind of history: written in the passion of a long-ago moment, interpreted for the present by a master scholar."—Elizabeth Kendall, author of Autobiography of a Wardrobe
(Elizabeth Kendall)

"This is a fantastic book. . . . The book is a must for anyone claiming a love of ballet. . . . [Volynsky's text] is always hugely entertaining and surprising, you will never look at a toeshoe, a tiara or a tendu . . . the same way again."—Toni Bentley, New York Times Book Review (Editor's Choice)
(Toni Bentley New York Times Book Review 2009-01-25)

"The first English-language edition of some of the world's finest writings on ballet."—New York Times Book Review (Editors' Choice)
(New York Times Book Review)

About the Author

Stanley J. Rabinowitz is Henry Steele Commager Professor and professor of Russian, Amherst College, and director of the Amherst Center for Russian Culture. He lives in Amherst, MA.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; First Edition edition (December 9, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300124627
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300124620
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,771,150 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Ivy Lin on July 16, 2016
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ballet's Magic Kingdom is definitely one of the few dance critic volumes that is a must-read for balletomanes (the others are Arlene Croce's great series of books and Edwin Denby's collected writings). Volynsky was a Jewish writer in St. Petersburg during the last years of the Imperial Ballet era. He saw Mathilde Kschessinskaya, Anna Pavlova, Olga Spessivtseva, Tamara Karsavina and other legendary names dance. His descriptions of them are vivid and illuminating. For instance he says that Mathilde Kschessinskaya's feet had "almost no arch" but that she wowed the crowds with effortless "double and triple turns" and "the most difficult cabrioles." A female dancer dancing cabrioles? Even today that implies a dancer of remarkable strength and virtuosity. His favorite dancer was Anna Pavlova. His description: "Anna Pavlova has a phenomenal arch, which she almost dares not bend entirely when she lifts herself on pointe. If she were to extend it, she'd break her foot."

Volynsky is like many balletomanes fiercely opinionated. For instance he loathed the "revolutionary" ballets of Mikhail Fokine. He also loathed the modern dance movement of Isadora Duncan but praised Duncan's "lovely artistry." He follows up with this paean to Duncan's charisma: "Duncan is beautiful in the purity of her emotions, which inspire the viewer more rapidly than any other more perfect form of art." He was a fierce protector of Petipa and the purity of academic classical ballet.

The second half of the book is devoted to Volynsky's "The Book of Exaltations: The ABC's of Classical Dance." Think it sounds boring? It's not.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am so thrilled with this book that I want to kiss the translator's hands. The deep thinker, dance critic, art historian, AND ballet pedagogue Volynsky? Writings during a crucial period in Russian and ballet history? In English? Too good to be true... If only ballet would be taken so seriously today. It should be. It can withstand the intellectual rigor.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Needed more interpretation by compiler
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