We went to see a live performance of Giselle on the weekend. My knowledge of this particular ballet was rather sketchy but Moozle gave me a general synopsis as we were driving to the theatre. She’s read a few books over the years that have given her a good general knowledge of dance in general and classical ballet in particular, so I thought I’d share some of them here for those of you who have children who are interested or are interested in expanding your own knowledge.
A ballet performance can be very bewildering if you have no idea of the story and although the ballet itself is charming, it won’t be fully enjoyed if the storyline is obscured. Looking through the brief synopsis provided on the theatre programme is helpful to a certain extent, but these stories are fairly complex tales and a child won’t pick up much of the detail with a only a cursory overview just before the performance.
This is where stories of the individual ballets are so helpful, and not just for children. They allow you to really know the storyline and to understand the pantomime with its various expressions that the dancers use to demonstrate emotions or events, such as a broken heart. There are so many details and quick action in a live performance and time spent poring over a story before its actual performance helps in the appreciation, and therefore the pleasure, once you are there.
Dance Me a Story by Jane Rosenberg – this is a collection of twelve titles from classical ballet in story form and includes Cinderella, Coppélia, Giselle, The Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake. Giselle, for example takes up eleven pages, two of those pages are watercolour illustrations of scenes from the ballet and the story is divided into two acts.
This book is delightfully illustrated by Merrill Ashley and complements the authors\’ text, which together help to clarify the mysterious elements of the different ballets. Inclusions of dialogue shed light on the pantomine and descriptions of the music assist in creating the atmosphere behind the ballet. A great book for around ages 10 years and up. 128 pages.
A Child’s Introduction to Ballet by Laura Lee
This book is a light-hearted look at the history of ballet, its most famous dancers, composers and choreographers, plus stories of various ballets. It covers twenty ballets but only in about two to three pages and not the same depth as the above book. The book comes with a CD that includes selections of music from some of the ballets and instructions on when to play certain pieces that match up with the stories. Suitable for around ages 8 to 12 years.
This is a simple colouring-in book that Moozle loved when she was about seven or thereabouts…
Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild (1895-1986)
Noel Streatfeild had a background in the Dramatic Arts and wrote a number of books for children that reflected her interest in this area. Ballet Shoes, written in 1936, was an immediate best seller and continues to be popular with children. It is the story of three children adopted by an eccentric explorer who join the Children’s Academy of Dancing and Stage Training. My girls loved her books around the age of 9 years.
This is out of print but available at reasonable prices secondhand. A dance teacher explains ballet techniques to her young pupils and includes in the lessons the history of ballet, stories of the great dancers, and discussions of famous ballets.
This is a black and white, no frills book, but it has plenty to interest a young person who loves ballet. One of my girls’ favourite books on ballet. 112 pages; illustrated.
These are some of our favourites. How about you? Any recommendations?