Power To Rise -
The Story of the National Ballet in Canada.
Review by Gary Robertson.
In the case of the National Ballet of Canada, an assessment reveals a company not of international stars, but of disciplined, highly individual artists, competent to interpret a variety of different styles. It reveals a company which now, after nearly fifty years of professional activity, has the depth of generations.
This is the story of the history and development of one of the world's great ballet companies. The author, James Neufeld, has woven an accurate and intimate story, with the help of excellent archives, and a host of personal interviews and shared recollections.
The story is presented in a fair and detailed documentary style which creates an almost day by day picture of the principle characters and their struggle to create and operate the National Ballet. But this close attention to detail, while factual, gets a little ponderous in describing the personality struggles, the artistic temperament of the big name stars, the political mindlessness, and the corporate pressures to keep such an entity in both creative and financial health.
Still, there are good insights into major characters, like Rudolph Nureyev, Celia Franca, Erik Bruhn and Sir Frederick Ashton. Their professional and artistic contributions certainly coloured the Canadian dance scene, and ultimately elevated the National Ballet to the world stage.
The rehearsal hall wasn't big enough for two large egos. Franca, whose real love was working in the studio, and who was herself cast as the wicked fairy, Carabosse, the major dramatic character role in the ballet, removed herself to the administrative offices and allowed Nureyev a free rein with the company members.
An excellent ninety-five page appendix lists every performance ever given, along with the dances performed; all of the dancers who performed with the National Ballet; references; information sources; completed workshops; board members; and group concert itineraries. There is also a full index.
Power to Rise is really suited to the senior student or adult reader who has a specific interest in dance. The average reader would soon tire of the details of past tours, personality conflicts, and organizational struggles. It is a very complete document and the accompanying photographs, while small, are appropriate to the text. This book is recommended as a Reference Book in a library, but would not be of much general interest to young readers.
Gary Robertson is a former high school Fine Arts instructor and is a practising artist and musician in Regina.
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Copyright © 1997 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
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