Noel Streatfeild HEIDI von OBENAUER - Essay

HEIDI von OBENAUER

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

I wish when I were around nine or ten, someone had given me this book to read. Like all other children who dream of dancing, I was ripe for a book which viewed the ballet with wide-eyed wonder and common sense, one that could teach me about the art and make me see more clearly the work and problem sides of where my dreams would lead me.

"A Young Person's Guide To Ballet" is a down-to-earth introduction to what happens in a ballet class…. The attitude toward technique inherent in the text is an unusually sound one. And because the treatment of the male ballet student is so realistic (not overly encouraged by anyone but his teacher), this is an excellent book for a boy.

The historical material is reliable….

This book's great virtue is its attitude toward studying and pursuing a career in ballet, which is portrayed as both genuine and realistic. (These children do not become prodigies of The Royal at the book's finish.) There are, however, problems with some of the other attitudes of the text. This is a British book. And it is most definitely a ballet book. The comments on Isadora Duncan, Martha Graham (who is likened in approach to Isadora) and the view of modern dance are subtly pejorative….

As to the state of our ballet, the intimation in the text is that America is not quite classical, and our ballet is relegated to a nebish area the author calls "American dancing." No American ballet dancers are shown or discussed. Ironically, though the author states that the old ballets such as "Spectre de la Rose," "Petrouchka" and "The Dying Swan" are no longer seen, these works are currently in the repertoires of American dancers and American companies.

These biases should be pointed out to the young reader, and labeled as another possible viewpoint on the dance scene. But they are gentle enough that they need not deter you from buying and giving the book. It's charming nevertheless. I still wish I could have read it back when I was nine.

Heidi von Obenauer, "Books: 'A Young Person's Guide to Ballet'," in Dance Magazine (copyright 1975 by Danad Publishing Company, Inc.), Vol. 49, No. 12, December, 1975, p. 94.