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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The White Ballets, written and illustrated by Rajika Kupesic. Tundra, 2011. $21.99 ages 5 and up

 "In a country cottage, there lived a lovely peasant girl named Giselle. More than anything, Giselle loved to dance, but her mother worried constantly. "My girl," she'd warn, "please be careful. Your heart. Too much dancing could." But to Giselle, dancing was far more important than a weak heart."

Rajika Kupesic shares three ballets in this beautifully designed picture book. Since I am not a ballet aficionado, I had no real knowledge of any of them, but came away from the reading with an understanding for their story and in awe of the artwork designed to depict them. 

In her introduction she describes the origin of the title. The term is meant to underscore the identical white costumes worn by a group of female dancers who act as a backdrop to the prima balllerina. They perform in unison as one entity and their power comes from their skill at doing so.  

The first two ballets chosen are special to the artist as they were among her first performances as a young dancer and then as a graduate of the National Ballet School of Zagreb. Those are Swan Lake and Giselle. The third is called La Bayadere, a ballet not in her repertoire as it was only danced in the USSR. Ms. Kupesic tells readers that the three are among the most important works for the ballet blanc style of performance. 

As a classically trained dancer, she uses her brilliant artistic talent to bring the fluidity and movement of the ballets to her audience. As she works on her paintings she listens to music and uses its grace and flow to design the works in progress. She seems uniquely qualified to bring life to the dance she loves so much. 

I like that she shares the story of the ballets in language that is clear and conversational, making them accessible for a young and specialized audience. In notes about each ballet she explains their history and also ensures that her readers understand why she painted each image as she did. As you can imagine, this is a book that would be most appreciated by an aspiring dancer or those who share a love of ballet performance seen at the theater.

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