Some who log on to this site have asked about Alan Brissenden’s and Keith Glennon’s recently published book Australia Dances: creating Australian dance 1945–1965. With the kind permission of The Canberra Times, who published my overview of the book on 2 August 2010, I am posting a PDF of that review. While I was extremely fortunate to have been allocated a whole page for my comments there is always much more to say than is possible in a review. I would be more than happy to publish any comments on Australia Dances from readers of this site.
Michelle Potter, 1 October 2010
4 thoughts on “Australia Dances. Alan Brissenden and Keith Glennon”
Thanks for posting your extremely well considered review for us non Canberrans.
For me the book’s biggest asset is its wealth of visual material, incorporating designs and images of dancers, both posed and in performance. Unlike so much of today’s photographic production these photos seem able to convey an impression of how a dancer presented themselves to an audience and how a ballet looked onstage. Amongst all the photographic dross in the latest Australian Ballet News publication there is a single black and white shot of Carolyn Rappel from Images Classiques credited to Athol Shmith/Jack Cato. It shows the inadequacies of the current approach.
As regards the notes on specific ballets, I often got the impression that the writer had just seen the work the previous evening. Someone must have been keeping copious notes of their experiences as the writing did not feel like it was a recollection of far off events but conveyed a startling immediacy. It is a lesson to me to try and make notes so things don’t become clouded over time and judgements do not reflect what one felt at the time. Also the writer was able to talk quite specifically about choreography and production. A dispiriting thing about trawling through ballet notices of the 30’s and 40’s for, say the de Basil company, is how vague the comments regarding these issues generally are.
While Ted Pask covers a lot of the same ground, this new book has a more lively, personal approach. The Pask books are still highly valuable in their precise approach to details of dates and performances and casts.
The pulling together of so many smaller companies is also very valuable. There was a wealth of designing, composing, choreographing going on.The designs somtimes manage to sneak into an exhibition, especially at the Melbourne Arts Centre but the scores seem to be well and truly asleep. It shows what a central role ballet played in the entertainment options for Australians throughout this period.
I believe Wakefield Press are releasing, in early 2011, a volume edited by Mark Carroll dealing with the de Basil tours and their influence on Australian cultural activity. If the production is anything like that afforded the current volume, it also will be truly worth owning.
I agree with your comments, especially about the visual information and the immediacy of the writing (in most cases), and am so pleased that this book was published.
On the subject of Australian Ballets Russes publications, the National Gallery of Australia will open its Ballets Russes show on 10 December, which will continue until March 2011. The exhibition will have an accompanying catalogue, which will appear by the time of the opening.