Ballet for Martha: Bravo! A Beautiful Performance

Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan, illustrated by Brian Floca

This is the story of how three great artists came together to create a classic American ballet.  Aaron Copland’s music inspired the original story and dance of Martha Graham and then in turn Isamu Noguchi created the minimalist sets.  All of these have become iconic so it is a pleasure to understand how the three collaborated on the creation, each drawing from the others ideas but also adding their own to make an ever more powerful ballet.  This picture book manages to capture the arc of creativity and also the ideas behind the ballet itself.

Greenberg and Jordan have somehow managed in so few words to tell two stories.  They reveal both the story of the collaboration between the creators of the ballet and also the story of that the ballet itself tells.  The text also gives insight into the design elements of the sets, the simple power of the music, the creative process of choreography.  This is truly a look at what it takes to be a master composer, choreographer and artist.  The text invites the reader in, explains the elements and leaves one in awe.

Floca’s watercolors are alive and vivid.  They offer a real look at the costumes and sets but also offer stirring glimpses behind the curtain and into the artistic process.  His use of color is subtle yet strong, really allowing the original creativity of the collaboration to shine.

Highly recommended, this book is a breathtaking look at a ballet.  Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brook Press.

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