Henning Kronstam: Portrait of a Danish Dancer

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"Kronstam is slender and dark, with the clarity of a rapier, an intuitive sense of style, and a dynamic brilliance that takes off at jet speed under perfect control." --Claudia Cassidy, Chicago Tribune

"He was the glue that held the company together. He was the reason it maintained its international reputation as long as it did." --Ib Andersen, former principal dancer, New York City Ballet and Royal Danish Ballet

"In the long and, seen with international eyes, unique Danish tradition of brilliant male dancers from Bournonville to Nikolaj Hübbe,

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Overview

"Kronstam is slender and dark, with the clarity of a rapier, an intuitive sense of style, and a dynamic brilliance that takes off at jet speed under perfect control." --Claudia Cassidy, Chicago Tribune

"He was the glue that held the company together. He was the reason it maintained its international reputation as long as it did." --Ib Andersen, former principal dancer, New York City Ballet and Royal Danish Ballet

"In the long and, seen with international eyes, unique Danish tradition of brilliant male dancers from Bournonville to Nikolaj Hübbe, Henning Kronstam will stand out as the absolute number one." --Ebbe Mørk, Politiken

The story of Henning Kronstam, one of the greatest dancers of 20th-century ballet, is a testament of professional achievement and personal victory. Overcoming illness, family disapproval, and his own private torments, Kronstam dominated one of the world's most renowned companies, the Royal Danish Ballet, for nearly 30 years—beginning in 1956 when he created the role of Romeo at the age of 20 in Frederick Ashton's Romeo and Juliet  until a new generation, trained by him, took the stage. In 1979, he organized and directed the Bournonville Festival, introducing the world to the rarely performed works of August Bournonville, the Danes’ master choreographer.

Alexandra Tomalonis has documented Kronstam's major roles as recounted in his own words, revealing the genius behind the man and his art. A superb technician and impeccable classical stylist, Kronstam was also a great dance-actor. His range stretched from classical ballet to modern dance; his greatest roles included Bournonville's James; Balanchine's Apollo; Petit's Cyrano; and the Old Clown in Murray Louis's Hoopla. His refusal to substitute flash for style earned him the admiration of his peers, and he remains a beacon of artistic integrity and courage to the three generations of dancers he taught and coached.

In the writing of this book, the author conducted 200 hours of interviews with Henning Kronstam and talked with over 100 dancers and choreographers, including many who worked with him. She observed classes and rehearsals at the Royal Danish Ballet over a 10-year period to provide an unusually detailed view of backstage life. More than a biography of one man, this book tells the story of a great dance company. The 155 photographs accompanying the narrative showcase Kronstam's refined classical technique, unparalleled dramatic range, and the theatrical traditions of the Royal Danish Ballet.

Alexandra Tomalonis has been writing dance criticism for the Washington Post since 1979, and she is the founding editor of DanceView, a quarterly dance review magazine. She has taught dance history and appreciation at George Washington University and George Mason University and has been guest lecturer at the Smithsonian Institution and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, among others.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
With a broad repertoire, impeccable technique, and natural stage presence, Kronstam (1934-95) became one of the great Danes of dance. Tomalonis, dance critic for the Washington Post since 1979, uses a range of sources (including many hours of interviews with the subject), an even-handed treatment, and graceful prose to take the full measure of a complicated and talented individual. Begun as a study of Kronstam's roles, the book evolved into what the author calls "a portrait rather than a formal biography." It's actually a series of portraits in words and pictures (both stills and performance shots add considerable interest). Sections describe his early life and influential people and his work as a mature artist and later as a ballet master. About half the book analyzes Kronstam's major roles, such as the poet in George Balanchine's La sonnambula, James in August Bournonville's La sylphide, and Romeo in Frederick Ashton's Romeo and Juliet. Kronstam suffered from bipolar disorder, which he hid from his contemporaries, and the author invited a psychologist to write, in her words, a "psychological autopsy" addressing that disease. An enjoyable divertissement for dance lovers and those interested in the performing arts, this is highly recommended. Carolyn M. Mulac, Chicago P.L. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813025469
  • Publisher: University Press of Florida
  • Publication date: 11/28/2002
  • Edition description: First
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 608
  • Product dimensions: 6.45 (w) x 9.44 (h) x 1.65 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface ix
Part I The Making of an Artist
1 Henning Kronstam and His World 1
2 A Wartime Childhood 15
3 The Boy Who Practiced Dying 28
4 The Lander Years 46
5 Vera Volkova and the Making of a Dancer 68
6 The Pepper Boy in the Sugar Bowl 85
7 Firestorms and Breakthroughs 109
Part II The Roles
8 The Poet: Balanchine's La Sonnambula 133
9 Romeo: Ashton's Romeo and Juliet 146
10 James: Bournonville's La Sylphide 164
11 Apollo: Balanchine's Apollon Musagete 182
12 The Princes: Florimund, Siegfried, and Albrecht 194
13 The Knights: Nilas, Jason, and Don Jose 217
Part III The Mature Artist
14 Cyrano 233
15 Ruth Page and Walt Disney 256
16 The Swan in the Duck Pond 275
17 First Solo Dancer 286
18 Dark and Fair 309
19 Dreamland 332
20 This Breathlessness 353
Part IV The Ballet Master
21 Priorities and Challenges 379
22 The Bournonville Festival and The Firebird 398
23 Tivoli and Tours 415
24 The Search for a Successor 431
25 The Red Thread 447
26 Life and Art 464
27 Night Shadows 483
28 The Terrible Year 500
29 The Ashton Solo 511
Afterword 524
Appendix 1 List of Roles 529
Appendix 2 Kronstam's 1993 Contract 532
Notes 535
Bibliography 553
Index 557
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