Round About Ballet


Book Review by Willard Manus

Fifteen stars of American Ballet Theatre and New York City Ballet are profiled in ROUND ABOUT BALLET by William Cubberly and Joseph Carman, with copiour four-color photos by Roy Round, who, for over forty years, has shot the luminaries of the ballet world. Jennifer Dunning of the New York Times contributes a foreword.

ROUND ABOUT BALLET is the only dance book available today that combines interviews with, and photographs of, current stars of two famed American dance companies, American Ballet Theatre and New York City Ballet. Among those interviewed are such star dancers as Julie Kent, Gillian Murphy, Maxim Beloserkovsky, Marcelo Gomes and Wendy Whelan.

The latter "stands out as one of the most stunningly unique and breathtaking of ballerinas," Carman write. "She has bridged the gap from the twentieth century to the twenty-first. With her impeccably streamlined body, she transforms her dancing into dynamically geometric art. Musical, versatile, intelligent, and fluid, Whelan continues to amaze dance lovers with her ceaseless evolution."

Born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, Whelan started dancing at the age of three. Ten years later she was given a summer scholarship to the School of American Ballet. In 1986 she was asked to join the corps of NYCB. When asked what she had learned there from dancing Ballanchine's ballets, she replied: "It's interesting, because I've been dancing them for almost twenty years now. And I regularly find new things in each ballet. I've learned different things about myself as a person. I used to do a lot of leotard ballets--I still do. And that was my first love, because of the athletic quality and the abstraction. But now I'm finding myself in the more romantic ballets, and I'm drawn towards that quality. And I'm sure in the next years I'll find another realm of what he's done that reaches some other part of me, and teaches me something about who I am, and draws out something in me. I think that's very exciting, as a human being."

Jennie Somogyi is considered one of the best of NYCB's ballerinas, "a dancer's dancer whose talents extend far beyond her flair for jumping and turning." A principal dancer since 2000, she is known for her glamour and Amazonian prowess onstage, but as ROUND ABOUT THE BALLET reveals, she is hardly a diva offstage. Somogyi, who is married to a New Jersey policeman, explains how this unlikely coupling came about:

"I have always been interested in criminal profiling, you know, for the FBI. That was kind of my big thing. When I meet people, I don't remember the name, but I always kind of feel people out, and I'm very into how people think. So I've always kind of been interested in that field. I met him when he was going to the Academy, and we became really good friends. I was always really interested in what he was doing with his job and...we just hit it off. And so we dated, I guess for not very long, before we got married."

When asked whether she would work for the FBI when she stopped dancing, Somogyi laughed, "I would love to, but I think my husband would probably kill me!"

Most of the questions asked in the book concern dancing and dancers, choreographers and their ballets, training and technique. The answers, as Dunning points out, reveal much "about individual artistry in an age when ballet has become a profession rather than the vocation it once was of necessity. Many of Round's dancers talk of being underpaid, an interview topic that might have astonished" ballerinas of another age. "They talk of receiving college degrees and what they dream about at night, of riding motorcycles and bringing Coca-Cola--not champagne--to a desert island. They have impish senses of humor and a fondness for everyday colloquialisms."

Limelight Editions has scheduled book-signing events at Barnes & Noble Lincoln Center for Jan. 27 and at The Arts Club of Washington DC on Feb 3.

ROUND ABOUT BALLET, $29.95 hdbnd.