Russian Ballets. By Adrian Stokes. (Faber and Faber. 7s. 6d.) Reviewed by JAMES MONAHAN.
" This book," Mr. Stokes tells us in his preface, " is intended to be a guide to this or that ballet." It is also designed " both for purposes of reference and of continuous reading." In short, he has set out to help us enjoy the present programmes of the Ballets Russes at Covent Garden, and to give us a handbook of balletic knowledge, by explaining what individual choreographers are, and what their ballets mean. But it cannot be said that he has succeeded.
If you are to explain individual ballets, there are, I think, two ways in which it can be done. Either they can be explained in purely technical terms for the benefit of dancers, the possible practitioners of the art, something in the style of Mr. Cyril Beaumont's Manual of Classical Dancing. or they can be described in more general terminology for the more ignorant, yet enthusiastic ballet audience—again an example of this treatment being Mr. Beaumont's book on the Fokine ballets. There is a third way underlying both of these, of showing what are the main ideas of the whole interpretation of the Music, what is the core of the problem.
And though Mr. Stokes has, presumably, attempted both to explain the fundamental ideas and to describe the dances for ballet audience, all he has done is to fit certain ballets and ballet movements on to images—images very private to himself, every now and then iatroducing some more general motif, such as " traction " for Presages, the movement of the sea for Choreartium, to help the pictures out. Fur my part. watching Presages is not like " watching gulls over the dark Thames Embankment;" of the andante moderato of Brahms' Fourth (Chorcartium) 1 do not feel that " the mental flow and physical rhythm are so far reversed" (from the first movement) " that we are back amid the sources of our being within the present."
And I merely mention my personal feelings to show that Mr. Stokes has failed badly to assist at least one normal ballet lover to a greater enjoyment, and to suggest that the reason kr this failure lies, not in any laborious imagery of the author's—sometimes he is even genuinely poetic—but, in the fact that he has gone quite wrongly about his job from start to finish. What a ballet audience needs is not pictures, be they painted never so vividly, but an extremely matter-of-fact discussion of the important things like the relation between ballet and other dancing --why it is better than all other forms of dance, since we feel that it is—of the place and importance of mime, of the present tendencies of ballet, of choreographic symphonies and the like. Let it be owned that Mr. Stokes shows himself a most genuine ballet enthusiast, but the trouble is that we all ate, and that we could all write in the same vein as Mr. Stokes, if not—and this is our salvation—quite so well.