Not About Bikes or Ballet: Telecanter’s Receding Rules; Also, Books (About Ballet)
The first part of this post comes to you by way of one of the new banners I cobbled together last night from some clip art.
If paying for it isn’t in the budget, I like to use public-domain images (or my own original art) for things like banners. Once in a while, I’ll shamelessly gank a base image for some other, grander transformation project, but it’s easy to properly credit the source in those cases.
My ballet squid is no exception — and the squid part came from Telecanter’s Receding Rules. If you’re a fantasy author or a tabletop RPGer, Receding Rules is an awesome resource. Not only will you find reams of public-domain clip art that you can use to make, among other things, ballet squids (how’s that for a random encounter?), but Telecanter’s thoughtful suggestions for building tension and excitement into tabletop role playing games translate really nicely to the realm of fantasy writing.
As a writer who occasionally finds himself in need of a random, foreboding-but-mostly-harmless encounter for some character or another, I found Telecanter’s post, “Discretionary Monsters,” particularly edifying.
In short, if you’re a writer or a gamer (or a lazy blogger in search of some clip art), you might want to give Telecanter’s blog a look.
Amazon knows I am both a bibliophile and a ballet nerd, and as such has fiercely honed its ability to recommend books against which I can muster little resistance. Thus far, I’ve been fairly good about resisting for the most part — I’ve only purchased five (four are Kindle books, which — thanks to their generally-lower price points and the problem of instant gratification — are much harder to resist).
It began, of course, with Apollo’s Angels, Jennifer Homans’ thoroughgoing history of the art form. This book has already been reviewed by every ballet blogger on the face of the planet, so I’m not going to devote a ton of time to it here. The bottom line: if you like history and ballet and there’s enough geek in your blood to let you appreciate the academic tone, Angels is worth the read (regardless of Homans’ thesis that ballet is dead). I made it to the eighth chapter before the flurry of late-semester school stuff snowed me under; I haven’t picked it up again yet because I’ve been in Irresponsible Non-Academic Mode all summer.
Somehow, this led to Winter Season, the brief but highly-engaging journal of a NYCB dancer near the end of the Balanchine era. Toni Bentley’s voice is clear, engaging; perhaps even effervescent. There is an immediacy to it that makes the book a quick and compelling read.
Of course, since it was brief, I had to find another ballet book to chase it with. This led to Stephen Manes’ Where Snowflakes Dance and Swear — a sort of “embedded field report” about Manes’ time observing the Pacific Northwest Ballet. It’s as enjoyable as the title suggests; but nonetheless a book you can read episodically. I have been enjoying it in dribs and drabs (between mystery novels — a recently-acquired taste — and ballet classes).
The most recent addition to the pile is Ramsay Burt’s The Male Dancer: Bodies, Spectacle, Sexualities — a book that has proven to be even dryer and more academic in tone than Apollo’s Angels (it’s okay, I’m totally into that kind of thing: I’ve got this, I’m a Professional Student). You can tell it’s going to be very academic without even cracking its virtual spine, since the “cover” is surpassing plain, with an abstract design in blue topped with plain white text (it’s also marketed as a textbook). This one is definitely not reading-in-bed-after-you’ve-taken-your-Trazodone material. I think I bumbled my way through about eight pages before giving up last night. It seems very promising (if not ballet-specific; Burt also addresses the broader world of theatrical dance), but also very dry.
I suppose I’ll keep working on it while I wait for Ballet Technique for the Male Dancer, which is sort of the hard-won prize of the lot. Amazon recommended it; several very good reviews confirmed its promise — and then I realized it was out of print and, at the time, around $80 for a second-hand paperback copy in “good” condition. I popped it in my wish list and assumed that was never going to happen. Since then, for whatever reason, a number of copies have surfaced for around $40. Last night, I took a deep breath ($40 is like 3.1 classes!) and bit the bullet. Unfortunately, since Ballet Technique for the Male Dancer is an actual physical, printed book, I will just have to wait ’til it gets here.
Anyway, that’s it for the moment. That last little blurb isn’t so much a review or a recommendation as an expression of my existential angst in the face of having to WAIT FOR A BOOK (ZOMG!)*.
No class today; tomorrow, we’ll be doing Essentials and possibly a random tandem ride.
*Yes, I’m making fun of myself.