When is a book club more than a book club? When it’s organized by Mark Sappington.
Sappington has filled many roles with Kansas City Ballet over the years including Board President and Member, Guild President, former chair of the Patrons Society, Bolender Center Campaign Co-chair, and longtime subscriber and donor. His most recent position is leader of the Guild’s Book Club/Movie Nights. The Guild is a group of over 180 members who serve as advocates for dance and ballet in the Kansas City community.
This year the Guild’s book club had five books on their list and for each one, Sappington arranged for some additional educational component or special guest to be part of the discussion.
“I believe you have to provide different portals of entry for ballet. This is a way of reaching out to people who are interested in exploring the history of dance,” Sappington says.
JULY: A BIOGRAPHY OF SERGEI PAVLOVICH DIAGHILEV
Last July, the group started off by choosing their own books about Sergei Pavlovich Diaghilev the Russian art critic, patron, ballet impresario and founder of the Ballets Russes. They ranged from art picture books to various biographies. “It was fascinating to see which books people chose and to discuss the life of this ballet aficionado.”
SEPTEMBER: NO WAY HOME
In September, they read No Way Home by Carlos Acosta. Acosta, a Cuban dancer, was considered to be one of the world’s greatest performers. He began life in the slums of Havana before grueling hard work took him around the world. It is his story of the price he paid for success. It was noted that former Kansas City Ballet dancer Juan Pablo Trujillo was friends with Carlos Acosta.
NOVEMBER: THE PAINTED GIRLS
The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan from 2014 was the choice for November. This historical novel about two sisters her served as muse for Edgar Degas, touched on ballet in a different setting in 1878 Paris. As part of the discussion, the book club took a special tour of Degas’ sculptures and drawings of ballet dancers that was on display recently at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, led by Nelson-Atkins docent and KCB Guild Member Barb Nicely.
JANUARY: APOLLO’S ANGELS: A HISTORY OF BALLET
The history of ballet was revealed in Apollo’s Angels: A History of Ballet by Jennifer Homans. Homans is an historian, critic and former professional ballerina devoted to all things ballet. As part of the discussion, Kansas City Ballet Music Director Ramona Pansegrau joined the group and shared her wealth of knowledge about amazing historical stories.
MARCH: THE MASTER’S MUSE
In March the group discussed The Master’s Muse by Varley O’Connor—a novel about the love affair between George Balanchine and Tanaquil Le Clercq. In 1956, Tanny is a gorgeous young ballerina at the top of her game and married to the legendary Balanchine. She falls ill and loses the ability to walk. Kansas City Ballet Archives revealed a letter from Tanny to Kansas City Ballet’s former Artistic Director Todd Bolender she’d dictated to her mother around the time of her illness. Several Guild members also shared their interactions with Tanny and others mentioned in the book.
MAY: WHEN BALLET BECAME FRENCH
The final book in this season’s lineup is When Ballet Became French by Ilyana Karthas, associate professor at the University of Columbia. The book explores the correlation between ballet and French nationalism. The author will attend the discussion in May.
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