On with the Dance !
Apology for Dancing. By Rayner Heppenstall. (Faber & Faber. 12s. 6d.) The Birth of the Ballets Russes. By Prince Peter Lieven. (George Allen & Unwin. 15s.) Mr. Rayner Heppenstall has written a polemical and somewhat pretentious treatise on ballet. He seeks to provide a philosophy of the dance and succeeds in throwing in a great deal of philosophizing of his own on life and society in general.
On page 157 he reaches the conclusion that " we shall not have social and cultural wholeness again until we are again a theocracy," and in the course of this piece of reasoning he attacks fiercely a fellow critic who holds the Marxian view of the necessary reconstruction of the social order.
He also does seem to arrive at a glimmering of that great truth propounded so eloquently and so often by Mr. Eric Gill that all really great art is bound up with religion, and is great because it is employed in the service of a higher cause than the projecting of the artist's ego upon walls or canvas.
-1, Interest that is Provoking It will be seen then that Mr. Heppenstail's treatise is: by•no means just another book on ballet, but if the reader is prepared to swallow the pseudo-philosophy and unconscionable jargon, and the author's very tiresome trick of quoting and requoting in italics long passages of his own writing, he will find much that is interesting and thought-provoking in Apology for Dancing.
Particularly good is the masterly survey at the • beginning, linking up ballet with parallel developments in other art forms in Europe and his consideration of the dance as a "perfect abstract of social history." S. D. •
Benois and the Ballet
In The Birth of the Ballets Russes, Prince Peter Lieven gives a graphic account of the creation of the Russian Ballet as presented to Western Europe in 1909, and of the group of men responsible for that creation.
One feels very strongly the author's direct personal contact with all those who were concerned in its early struggles, especially with Benois. Here Alexandre Benois is shown as playing the most important part in the creation of the BalletsRusses.
Benois first interested Diaghileff in ballet, and his influence with its Hoffmanesque and romantic tendencies can be felt in all the earlier ballets. "From Le Pavilion ' d'Armide to Petrushka he was the inspirer of the ballets. His thoughts and his leanings are the foundation of the character of the Ballets-Russes of that period."
Niinsky's Circus Tradition -? ???
To those who saw him, the chapter on Nijinsky will bring back vivid memories, though it may be a little disturbing to learn that this " god of the dance " owed his tremendous " elevation " to his descent from circus acrobats.
The book is a vigorous appreciation of the great achievement of the group of friends, Benois and Diaghileff in particular, to whom we owe the present BalletsRusses, direct descendant of the ballet of 1909-1914, and as such should be read by every lover of this art form.