Book Review: Behind the Scenes at Boston Ballet

Behind the Scenes at Boston Ballet - Christine Temin, Wally Gilbert

Book: Behind the Scenes at Boston Ballet

 

Author: Christine Temin

 

Genre: Non-Fiction/Dance/Ballet

 

Summary: In 1958, a determined suburban dance teacher founded the New England Civic Ballet. Today, that company is known as Boston Ballet - a company that has faced head-on challenges of remaining true to its mission while attracting the audiences and financial support necessary to maintain live performances by these dedicated artists. For centuries, ballet companies have transported audiences beyond the workaday world, one performance at a time. Someone who sees a ballerina perform beautifully in Swan Lake may be impressed, but many who appreciate ballet remain unacquainted with all the logistics of sets, people, and money that must come together for a world-class company to complete a season of performances. Beyond the glare of lights onstage lives a world of physical trainers and fund-raisers, artistic directors and executive boards, and endlessly rehearsing dancers and musicians, all laboring to create memorable performances that inspire, thrill, and entertain. In its relatively short history, Boston Ballet has faced charges of racism; cases of dancer anorexia; a young dancer’s death; and the precipitous, publicly embarrassing departures of one director and one director-elect. The real story, though, lies not in these occasional public incidents but in the daily challenges of preparing and performing a repertory that spans almost two centuries, from La Sylphide (1836) to world premieres created specifically for the company. Boston Ballet’s story highlights the tremendous amount of work and energy applied to each show before the curtain can be raised. In this unprecedented behind-the-scenes look at the life of a company, former Boston Globe dance critic Christine Temin and photographer Wally Gilbert present a compelling portrait of Boston Ballet. Their evocative prose and penetrating photography turn the spotlight on all the elements - from toe shoes and costumes to rehearsals and revenue - that come together (or fall apart) in a season. - University Press of Florida, 2009.

 

 

This book is dated; extremely dated. I bought this book in 2009 so this reading has been delayed for a long while. I don’t doubt that the Boston Ballet is still struggling financially and, because this book is dated, I’m going to be a little kind.

 

My first complaint is that the summary of the book makes the book sound more interesting than it actually is. I’d describe this book as one part super-long-newspaper-article and one part commercial. I assume the goals of the book are to promote the arts while bringing awareness of the financial problems the company is having. The style and writing of the book gives off the documentary vibe.

 

The chapters and their titles are very straightforward. What you see is what you get. If you’re looking for the history of the different positions there are in a ballet company, don’t read this book. The book focuses entirely on the Boston ballet company. It’s interesting from a local historical perspective, but not as a general ballet history book.

 

This is very poor of me to say, however, I do want to be honest. I lost interest after the first two-three chapters. This is mostly because Temin always manages to insert a comment about how the company is struggling financially and needs support. There’s a fine line between requesting politely and shamelessly begging. To me, it got to a point where it was practically begging. There is a way of communicating the importance of keeping the company afloat without constantly reminding the reader that the company is struggling. I think Temin forgot this when she was writing the book. Because of this, I was really annoying whenever she brought it up again it took away from the experience of reading the book. I love the arts and I love ballet as much as the next arts lover. When you get to the point when you’re annoyed with the cause, though, it means the writer isn’t doing his/her job.

 

Other than this complaint, the book was decent. It was interesting to get a brief look into the seasons of the year and how they were set up, as well as learning about the dancers who are the stars of the shows.

 

Only true ballet professionals and fans would appreciate this book, as there is a lot of technical terms and discussion that the average person wouldn’t comprehend easily.

I give Behind the Scenes at the Boson Ballet a C+.

 

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I got this book at the Boston Ballet store, but you can get it on Amazon as well. Thanks for reading!