The Royal Ballet: 75 Years

The Royal Ballet: 75 Years - Zoe Anderson This is a real history, not a picture book, and as such I expected that it would have its longueurs. Surprisingly, that was not true for me - perhaps I had enough touchstones within each era to keep me interested. The book is arranged decade by decade, and the only stretch that failed to hold my attention was the 2000-2006 chapter (the book was pulished in '06): and I expect this is more of a reflection on my failings as a ballet fan than on either Anderson or the Royal Ballet. It's true I belong to that generation whose noisy passion for the art faded when Baryshnikov hung up his classical dancing shoes.

It would be an injustice to say that the book consists solely of a summation of contemporary critical reaction for each production as it was first presented and/or remounted, year by year, but certainly that is a very large part of the book. As such, it takes on a rather mechanical tone at times, though always very literate and readable (Anderson apparently has a doctorate in literature). There are a few anecdotes about the dancers, the choreographers, and the administrators scattered here and there, particularly in the accounts of the very early days with de Valois. Major behind-the-scenes ructions are not glossed over, but summed up in a few sentences rather than dwelt upon. The authorial voice and authorial opinions, not surprisingly, become more pronounced as the book's chronology gets into the period where Anderson has been dance critic of The Independent. As such, it is occasionally grating (her clear dislike of Glen Tetley's choreography, which I enjoyed very much during his association with the National Ballet of Canada, set my teeth on edge a bit.

There are some nice colour plates and a few black and white illustrations, and because of its thoroughness this will be an invaluable reference book (has already proved to be so, in fact). I'm very glad I got it, and it will stay on my shelves.