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Mirrors and Scrims

The Life and Afterlife of Ballet

Marcia B. B. Siegel

Publication Year: 2011

In this stunning new collection of reviews and essays, dance critic Marcia B. Siegel grapples with the floating identity of ballet, as well as particular ballets, and with the expanding environment of spectacle in which ballet competes for an audience. Drawn from a wide variety of published sources, these writings concentrate on canonical works of ballet and how the performances of these works have been changing in significant ways. Siegel writes with a keen awareness of the history and mythology that surround particular works, while remaining attentive to the new ways in which a work is interpreted and re-presented by contemporary choreographers and dancers. Through her readable and provocative writings, Siegel offers critical insight into performances of the past twenty-five years to give us a new understanding of ballet in performance. The volume includes over one hundred pieces on a variety of ballet topics, from specific dances and dancers to companies and choreographers, ranging from Swan Lake and The Nutcracker to Nijinsky, Balanchine, Tharp, and Morris to the Bolshoi, the Joffrey, the Miami City Ballet, the Boston Ballet, to name just a few.

Ebook Edition Note: All images have been redacted.

Published by: Wesleyan University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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List of Illustrations

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p. vii-vii

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p. ix-ix

Over the years covered by this collection, I contributed on a regular basis to several publications and wrote occasionally for others. The tone of the writing changes slightly according to the type of publication. In some . . .

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pp. xi-xiv

This is a book about history—about the many possible histories that get written on a single subject. It is a document of change, marking a future still being written, not a past that is safely settled. It is about . . .

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pp. 1-45

The first great choreographer of the twentieth century, Michel Fokine, set out to reform Russian ballet. The classical edifice built by Petipa, Ivanov, and the Maryinsky school in St. Petersburg was suffering . . .

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2. Movable Classics

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pp. 46-103

La Fille Mal Gardée (1789) leads off Cyril Beaumont’s indispensable thousand-page reference to the first 150 years of European ballet. Like many classic works that followed it, La Fille survived till . . .

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3. Postlude & Prelude

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pp. 104-163

A few years ago, after the premiere of his spooky ballet about Robert Schumann, Davidsbündlertänze, George Balanchine said in an interview that for the finale, after the tormented artist-hero . . .

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4. Balanchine Diaspora

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pp. 164-206

Reconstruction in dance means more than bricks and mortar. The largest part of the job, of course, is unearthing and learning the thousands of steps in a ballet that’s been long out of the repertory or one that . . .

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5. Ballet in Transit

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pp. 207-274

William Forsythe’s evening-length Artifact is a shrewd amalgam of the trendiest European avant-garde ideas, from Apollinaire and Gertrude Stein to Robert Wilson and Pina Bausch, salted with a few . . .

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6. On with the Show

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pp. 275-322

The relationship between Broadway and ballet has been tightening little by little for years. Ballet dancers have gotten more flashy and extroverted; show dancers have piled on more technique. Susan Stroman’s . . .

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7. Riffs and Translations

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pp. 323-377

Dance traditions can cross borders as easily as the people who practice them. It’s getting hard to know what’s meant when a tradition is invoked. English choreographer Matthew Bourne’s . . .


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pp. 379-381


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pp. 383-398

About the Author

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E-ISBN-13: 9780819571137
Print-ISBN-13: 9780819568755

Page Count: 416
Publication Year: 2011