Roland John Wiley’s Tchaikovsky’s Ballets[1] is an anomaly: an authoritative, important, useful book on dance, based on primary source materials, meticulously researched, and intelligently presented. It is all the more impressive an achievement considering that the author’s field is musicology. As its title indicates, the book is meant primarily as a study of the three works Tchaikovsky wrote for the ballet—Swan Lake (both the original Moscow and posthumous St. Petersburg productions), The Sleeping Beauty, and Nutcracker—from their commissioning through the first performances. But more than that, it is an examination of a seminal period in the history of the classical dance, a period of transition that saw the demise of the Romantic era and the emergence of a new age of classicism which would...


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