From the barre to the board room and everything in between

François Klaus takes a refreshingly new approach to the world of ballet in his recently published book, Beyond the Barre, Step by Step through the World of Ballet.

Klaus, a teacher, choreographer and former artistic director of the Queensland Ballet, covers subjects that aren’t often explored in books about the dance world.

He writes about ballet from the point of view of dancers, directors, lighting and set designers, the audience and even the boards of ballet companies.

That may seem like a lot of detail, but the book is easy to read and scattered with interesting anecdotes, including some that reveal the internal politics that inevitably take place within dance companies.

The book is written in a lighthearted manner that will appeal to anyone who has lived the ballet life, as a dancer, parent or teacher, and also those who don’t know much about the dance world but would like to know more and it’s illustrated with charming illustrations by the Sydney artist, Brenda Tye.

Among his subjects are the audition, life in a ballet company, acting in dance, pas de deux, stage fright, conducting, choreography, working with music, the set, costumes, lighting, the artistic director, the audience, money, and the ballet master (including the “eccentric”, the “shouter”, the “retired-too-early”, the “supercilious”, the “melancholic”, the “mood swinger” and the nice guys (the “caring” and the “up beat and positive”.)

Klaus, who was born in France, also writes of his own career, beginning with his training in the south of France with the former Mariinsky dancer, Julie (Julia) Sedova – he writes a wonderful description of her dilapidated studio and the way she taught – what he learned from John Cranko in Stuttgart, and John Neumeier at the Hamburg Ballet, where Klaus was a principal dancer.

A couple of my favourite quotes in the book:

On working with music: “If rhythm is the music’s pulse, then melody is its voice…melody is less tangible than rhythm”.

On the role of the artistic director: “To survive, the artistic director must be a shrewd politician. To be of value, the artistic director must also be an artist”.

The book was written with the help of Klaus’ wife, the dancer and teacher, Robyn, and one of their two sons, Philippe, an actor who is also a pianist for the Sydney Dance Company studios’ open ballet classes taught by Cathie Goss and Andrea Briody, where he plays inspiring music, including melodies from the Great American Songbook (early 20th century standards by composers such as Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, George Gershwin and Cole Porter).

Beyond the Barre is now available as a Kindle ebook on amazon.com and will be released as a hard copy later this year.

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The Audience, illustration by Brenda Tye

The Audience, illustration by Brenda Tye

The Lighting Rehearsal, illustration by Brenda Tye

The Lighting Rehearsal, illustration by Brenda Tye

Costumes: The wardrobe department, illustration by Brenda Tye

Costumes: The wardrobe department, illustration by Brenda Tye

François Klaus

François Klaus

The book cover

The book cover