Augustyn, Frank and Shelley Tanaka. Footnotes: Dancing the World’s Best-loved Ballets. Millbrook Press, 2001. ISBN 0-7613-2323-6. $24.90. 96 pp. * 3-6 NF Reviewed by AnnMarie Hamar Footnotes is an eye-opening look at what it takes to be a classical ballet dancer. Augustyn discusses seven classical ballets, including The Nutcracker, The Sleeping Beauty, and Swan Lake. Unlike many children’s books on ballet, Augustyn offers his readers the dancer’s point of view on everything from costuming to the challenges of partnering. He devotes a chapter to each of the seven ballets. Instead of making each chapter a mere synopsis of the piece, Augustyn uses them as a springboard for discussing many aspects of dance. He covers issues such as dance notation, the role of the orchestra conductor, and the physical and mental toll ballet takes on its dancers. He explains how Edward Villella, Rudolf Nureyev, and Mikhail Baryshnikov have changed the role of male dancers. Darcey Bussell, Paloma Herrara, and others discuss how they prepare for some of the most famous and demanding roles in classical ballet. Augustyn also presents a brief history of ballet, which had its beginnings in the French court of King Louis XIV. The dancers quoted in the book are very candid as they discuss the joys, disappointments, and physical pain associated with their art. What comes through in the text is that despite long hours and a lot of physical therapy, the dancers love what they are doing. Augustyn’s expertise comes from the years he spent as a principal dancer with the National Ballet of Canada. Overall, his book is well written and balanced in its presentation. He doesn’t glamorize the life of a dancer or try to discourage, but he does make the point that dancers work hard. Interesting facts and humorous anecdotes are scattered throughout the text. The book’s illustrations are color photographs of dancers both on and off stage, in performance and in rehearsal. Adults and children who are keen on ballet will enjoy this book.
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