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Ballet as an International Language

Mao's Last Dancer

Mao’s Last Dancer, the highest-grossing Australian movie of 2009, is a story about a Chinese ballet dancer who comes to America, and then refuses to return to his homeland. It was based on a memoir by the dancer in question, Li Cunxin.

Cunxin’s book has been very successful in itself: it has been published and marketed in more than 20 countries, and won the Christopher Award, an annual prize for works of art that “affirm the highest values of the human … Continue Reading

An Appreciation of Aaron Copland

William H. Bonney

In 1938, the American frontier got its very own ballet.

After a long period of what seems in hindsight apprentice work, Aaron Copland achieved Master status in the American musical canon in 1938, with a ballet commissioned by Lincoln Kirstein, and named for the western gun-slinger William H. Bonney, or Billy the Kid.

In the world of orchestral music, “Billy the Kid” was America’s “Declaration of Independence.” Copland, composing for the choreography of Eugene Loring, broke away … Continue Reading

Three Movies about the World of Ballet

Ludwig Minkus (1826 - 1917)

Some beautiful music is composed for ballet. Oddly, as Eliza Gaynor Minden writes in her book The Ballet Companion, “ballet music” was once a pejorative term. The implication, in the minds of some, was that the composer wasn’t good enough to write music that could stand on its own as a work of art, so he had to settle for something that the real artists could choreograph for and dance to!

Yet surely composers such as Léo Délibes, … Continue Reading