PERSONAL: Female. Education: Georgetown University, M.A.
ADDRESSES: Offıce—c/o DanceView, P.O. Box 34435, Martin Luther King Station, Washington, DC 20043.
CAREER: Washington Post, dance critic, 1979-1997; founding editor of DanceView magazine, 1979—. George Washington University and George Mason University, teacher of dance history and aesthetics; founder of newsletter Ballet Alert, 1996; Dance Magazine, Washington correspondent; guest lecturer at Smithsonian Institution, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Wolf Trap, and other venues.
Henning Kronstam: Portrait of a Danish Dancer, with an afterword by Ellen Levine, University Press of Florida (Gainesville, FL), 2002.
Contributor of dance reviews to periodicals, including Ballet Review, Dance Now, Politiken, Dance International, and Teater Et.
SIDELIGHTS: Dance critic, teacher, and lecturer Alexandra Tomalonis first became interested in the Royal Danish Ballet in 1976 after seeing a performance, but she did not visit Copenhagen until 1990. At that time, and in subsequent visits, she became fascinated with productions staged by Henning Kronstam, who, she says in the preface to her book Henning Kronstam: Portrait of a Danish Dancer, seemed to have a "mystical symbiosis" with the dancers that "produced miracles."
In early 1993 she approached the very private dancer about writing a book about his ballet roles, but he did not consent to the request for several months. Only two days after he did so, he was dismissed from the Royal Ballet—for a breakdown in health caused by drinking, Tomalonis would later learn. Yet, he consented to begin work on the book in January, 1994. With Kronstam out of the Ballet, the book, Tomalonis decided, would be an artistic biography. However, Kronstam died in May, 1995, at age sixty-one, leaving many questions unanswered, in spite of the two hundred hours of interviews. Shortly before his death, however, Kronstam had talked for the first time about an illness, most likely bipolar disorder, that he had faced all his life, keeping it a secret lest it ruin his career. His mother had also suffered from the disorder, and Kronstam had blamed himself for her eventual suicide. An afterword in Tomalonis's book, by psychiatrist Ellen Levine, helps to explain many occurrences in Kronstam's life in light of his illness. Facing the gaps in biographical detail, Tomalonis finished the book as a portrait. As part of her research, she spoke with more than one hundred dancers and choreographers, in addition to the classes and rehearsals she observed at the Royal Danish Ballet over the ten years following her first visit to Copenhagen.
Born in 1934 into a comfortable family, Kronstam entered the Royal Danish Theatre Ballet School at age eight, where he was schooled in the technique of Danish master choreographer August Bournonville. The six-foot-tall, dark-haired and slender Kronstam first went onstage with the Royal Ballet as a student at age thirteen, as partner to a thirty-year-old ballerina. At age twenty, he created the role of Romeo in Frederick Ashton's Romeo and Juliet. Other famous roles included Bournonville's "James," Petit's "Cyrano," Balanchine's "Apollo," and the "Old Clown" in Murray Louis's Hoopla. He was known as an impeccable classical stylist who mastered the Danish jumping technique, and also as a gifted dance-actor. In his nearly thirty-year career with the Royal Danish Ballet, he advanced to Ballet Master, directing the school and serving as administrator. He also produced the successful Bournonville Festival in 1979.
In spite of his talent and success, Kronstam was no friend of the press and preferred to stay in Denmark throughout his career, so he was less well known than some of his contemporaries, such as Eric Bruhn and Flemming Flindt. He also struggled with alienation from his family for his early and lifelong relationship—and eventual marriage to—an older man, Franz Gerstenberg. Tomalonis explores this and other relationships in Kronstam's life and career.
Monna Dithmer, in a review for Politiken, called the book "a seductively good read . . . the story of a great artist, the aristocrat of the spirit, and a man who fought without any compromises for a genuine dance art. . . . At the same time, it is also a committed political statement." At times, wrote Dithmer, the book comes across "as a hagiography more than a biography, a depiction of a saint in the way that it turns Kronstam's dark and weak sides in his favor. Nonetheless," she wrote, "the book gives a very convincing and multifaceted portrait of his artistic development as a dancer and as an instructor." Anne Marriott, writing for Ballet Magazine, commented, "The chapters on his major roles offer fascinating insights not only into Kronstam's painstaking approach but also into the creation and staging of ballets. . . . The book sets out virtually the whole history of the Royal Danish Ballet and Kronstam's career is interwoven with the changes and the many intrigues and scandals." Library Journal's Carolyn M. Mulac noted that Tomalonis "uses a range of sources . . . an evenhanded treatment, and graceful prose to take the full measure of a complicated and talented individual."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Ballet Magazine, December 2002, Anne Marriott, review of Henning Kronstam: Portrait of a Danish Dancer.
Library Journal, October 1, 2002, Carolyn M. Mulac, review of Henning Kronstam, p. 98.
New York Times, June 3, 1998, Jennifer Dunning, "A New Ballet Journal," p. E3.
Politiken, January 8, 2003, Monna Dithmer, "The Swan in the Duck Pond."
University Press of Florida Web site,http://www.upf.com/ (May 7, 2003), description of and preface to Henning Kronstam.*