Saturday, February 21, 2009

Stepping Out to the Ballet and Some Books that Come to Mind in the Process

I’ve spent much of my life spent in a cocoon, buying new titles for the bookstore in a dark room. “Yes, yes, I’ll take two”, would come the cackle, cleverly skipping this or that title until the right one came along. “Buddhism’s being overpublished,” I’d squeak, “Everybody wants to read books about atheism now”, and the sales rep would scribble this breakthrough, saving it for his or her weekly call report.

But now, as I transition into a new job at Boswell Book Company, mostly on the sales floor, I must come into the light and actually do things and see people. I consider myself a natural introvert (aren’t most readers?) who has trained himself for 25 years to be a people person. It’s hard to believe that I could sometimes go an entire weekend in my youth without talking to anyone.

I celebrated this vow of sociability (heck, maybe someday I’ll get in the “Boris and Doris” gossip column in the Shepherd Express) with a venture into the artistic world, a journey to the ballet.

Thursday was dance night, as Elly Gore, the long-time, Schwartz Bookshops children’s buyer, now retired, and I went to see the Milwaukee Ballet. I mostly wanted to see Jerome Robbins’ “Fancy Free”, the dance that inspired the Broadway show On the Town, which then became the movie, at which time all Robbins’ choreography was removed. You can read more in Somewhere the recent bio of Robbins.

It turns out that there were actually three dances, the others being Adam Hougland’s “K 413” and Marius Petipa’s more traditional “Raymonda Act 3”, featuring the music of Alexander Glazunov. The ballet celebrated the marriage between Raymonda and her lover, and turned out to be the highlight of the evening for Elly. I know nothing, but knew enough that it would be lots of little dancettes, sort of like eating a bag of mini donuts.

If someone were interested in more on this subject, I’m not sure what I’d recommend. Perhaps Ballet's Magic Kingdom: Selected Writings on Dance in Russia, 1911-1925, the recent book that was a surprise front-page review on the New York Times Book Review. Not shockingly, it is still out of stock with the publisher.

I also might recommend Colum McCann’s Dancer, a fiction recreation of the life of Rudolf Nureyev. Michael Pink, artistic director of the Milwaukee Ballet himself, came to speak at one of the Schwartz shops when the book was first published. McCann has a new novel, Let the Great World Spin, coming next June.

Take a break and watch this video of the Milwaukee Ballet guys rehearsing “Fancy Free.”

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