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The Ballets Russes and Its World Hardcover – November 10, 1999
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From Library Journal
As impresario, Serge Diaghilev marshalled the best of the artistic forces of the early 20th century in the Ballets Russes, which embraced not only dance luminaries like Nijinsky, Balanchine, and Adolph Bolm but also musical innovators like Stravinsky, Prokofiev, and Rimsky-Korsakov and visual artists like Picasso, Matisse, and Leger. Here, editors Garafola and the late Van Norman Baer have assembled a distinguished group of dance and music scholars and critics to assess the importance of the Ballets Russes. The 14 essays by noted contributors Joan Acocella, Nancy Reynolds, Charles Joseph, and others examine the history of the Ballets Russes, from Diaghilev's collaborations with Stravinsky to the genesis of such landmark ballets as "The Firebird" and "Les Noces" and the company's influence on English and American dance. Enhanced by numerous illustrations, a detailed list of Diaghilev's works, and an estimable bibliography, this book is highly recommended for all dance and performing arts collections.ACarolyn M. Mulac, Chicago P.L.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Kirkus Reviews
A collection of essays held together by the commentary of a knowledgeable guide, this makes clear the impact Serge Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes had on the dance world. Dance historian Garafola's introduction sets it out clearly: although most of the original works of the company are no longer being performed, Diaghilev changed the entire context of what we now know as ballet. First, she notes, ``he transformed the character of ballet music, putting the final nail in the coffin of the specialist tradition exemplified by such composers as Ludwig Minkus and Cesare Pugni.'' He instead used music that was performed in concert, most notably working with Stravinsky on Firebird, Petrouchka, Le Sacre du Printemps. and Pulcinella (Prokofiev, Debussy, Ravel, Satie, and Poulenc were among other composers who benefited from Diaghilev's vision). Diaghilev also ``invented'' the one-act ballet, took costume and set design out of the hands of specialists and handed the entire production to one artist with a unifying vision, elevated the role of male dancers, and built on a classical foundation to explore new types of movement. In part one, various essays describe Diaghilev's background and the development of his aesthetic. Part two examines the evolution of dance through the Ballets Russes, including the influence of Isadora Duncan and others (in Elizabeth Souritz's essay), ``Firebird and the Idea of Russianness'' (by Sally Banes), and an examination of the Diaghilev/Stravinsky juggernaut; notes Charles M. Joseph: ``Diaghilev was a jumble of unlikeable traits. He could be utterly malicious in his treatment of friends . . . When crossed, he unhesitatingly sought vengeance against those foolhardy enough to question him.'' Finally, part three looks at how the influence of the Ballets Russes lives on, finishing with Nancy Reynoldss ``In His Image: Diaghilev and Lincoln Kirstein.'' (The late Van Norman Baer was curator of theater and dance at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.) Scholarly and wide-ranging, an enjoyable and worthwhile history. (color and b&w illustrations) -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
Top customer reviews
This book reminded me of Nesta MacDonald's "Diaghilev Observed" in as much that the editors/authors are writing about something they are not fully party to and have no real understanding of, and therefore, no real conception of what they are about. Whereas Mrs MacDonald tried to turn Diaghilev into the Conversative Party Member for Kensington [South], Garafola and her colleagues seem to see Diaghilev as a staunch Republican with close affiliations with the Klu Klux Klan.
I'm afraid it's well nigh impossible to try to see Diaghilev as a Politically Correct Figure in the year 2000. He was a complex, paradoxical figure, with all, for better or worse, of the values and all of the prejudices of his time.
It would be too long and too tedious to enumerate the many many misconceptions and faulty logic in this book, but I will point out a few things: Diaghilev did NOT invent the one act ballet, and I nearly fell down when I saw that 'most of the earlier ballets in the Diaghilev repertoire are no longer performed'. HEL-LO? Amazing statement! And completely inaccurate. Isadora Duncan was NOT an influence on anyone, except, briefly, the young Michael Fokine. Isadora Duncan was a joke! Finally: I take it that Garafola and her contributors have never lived in an Occupied Country? Therefore I find this book's attitude to Serge Lifar nothing more than sanctimonious cant. No-one has the right to judge whether he did right or wrong if they have not lived under such conditions.
I often get the feeling that Diaghilev would loath all this rubbish that is churned out about him from people who really don't have a clue as to what he was about, and he'd probably loathe all these marauding authors and editors even more!
I agree with other reviewers who think that a/it's enough about Diaghilev, and, b/the articles are almost too esoteric for words, and c/ Diaghilev would, indeed, not like all this intrusive, not to say, mis-conceived, in-depth analysis, of his world.
I also have the feeling that the writers involved couldn't even pronounce Diaghilev's name correctly. Not to mention the profusion of errors of both facts and judgements with which this book is littered.
Better luck next time, and remember, you can't fool all of the people all of the time!
If ever a lemon was squeezed dry it was Diaghilev's.
Please, everybody, enough is enough about Diaghilev.