Robert Tanitch reviews Wrights & Wrongs My Life in Dance by Peter Wright with Paul Arrowsmith (Oberon £25).
Peter Wright has been a dancer, choreographer, teacher, producer and director for well over 70 years. His long-running productions of Giselle, Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker have given ballet lovers much pleasure.
Wright is particularly interesting on Giselle and the chapter will be well worth re-reading after seeing a production.
Wright says: My intention is to take the classics work for modern audiences without destroying them… I want classical ballets to be contemporary – meaning that I want it to be up to date but I don’t want it to be completely different.
He has worked with the best: Ninette de Valois, Fonteyn, Nureyev (thieving wholesale from Wright’s Giselle), Cranko, Haydee, Mason. There are critiques and anecdotes.
There are vivid descriptions of Ashton, Soames, Guillem (on Giselle: I do not kill myself. In Russia you cannot commit suicide) and Macmillan (slapping Seymour’s face, accusing her of being drunk).
Wright regrets the tendency to replace mime with dance. He argues for more narrative ballets. He observes slow can be beautiful and insists the classics demand beautiful line, not contortions. He wants his Sugar Plums to be as fragile as porcelain.
Wright says: A classic ballet does not have to have great music. What you need is good theatre music… Choreography cannot be too difficult to perform otherwise it just becomes dull… The public will clap anything so long as ballerinas get their leg up
Wright also quotes Pavlova: Technique is a means to a beginning – not an end in itself.
There is plenty in Wrights & Wrongs to keep ballet lovers well entertained.
You can buy a copy of the book here: