Henning Kronstam:
Portrait of a Danish Dancer

Alexandra Tomalonis

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"Kronstam is slender and dark, with the clarity of a rapier, an intuitive sense of style, and a dynamic brilliance that takes off at jet speed under perfect control." --Claudia Cassidy, Chicago Tribune


"He was the glue that held the company together. He was the reason it maintained its international reputation as long as it did." --Ib Andersen, former principal dancer, New York City Ballet and Royal Danish Ballet


"In the long and, seen with international eyes, unique Danish tradition of brilliant male dancers from Bournonville to Nikolaj Hübbe, Henning Kronstam will stand out as the absolute number one." --Ebbe Mørk, Politiken


The story of Henning Kronstam, one of the greatest dancers of 20th-century ballet, is a testament of professional achievement and personal victory. Overcoming illness, family disapproval, and his own private torments, Kronstam dominated one of the world's most renowned companies, the Royal Danish Ballet, for nearly 30 years—beginning in 1956 when he created the role of Romeo at the age of 20 in Frederick Ashton's Romeo and Juliet until a new generation, trained by him, took the stage. In 1979, he organized and directed the Bournonville Festival, introducing the world to the rarely performed works of August Bournonville, the Danes’ master choreographer.


Alexandra Tomalonis has documented Kronstam's major roles as recounted in his own words, revealing the genius behind the man and his art. A superb technician and impeccable classical stylist, Kronstam was also a great dance-actor. His range stretched from classical ballet to modern dance; his greatest roles included Bournonville's James; Balanchine's Apollo; Petit's Cyrano; and the Old Clown in Murray Louis's Hoopla. His refusal to substitute flash for style earned him the admiration of his peers, and he remains a beacon of artistic integrity and courage to the three generations of dancers he taught and coached.
In the writing of this book, the author conducted 200 hours of interviews with Henning Kronstam and talked with over 100 dancers and choreographers, including many who worked with him. She observed classes and rehearsals at the Royal Danish Ballet over a 10-year period to provide an unusually detailed view of backstage life. More than a biography of one man, this book tells the story of a great dance company. The 155 photographs accompanying the narrative showcase Kronstam's refined classical technique, unparalleled dramatic range, and the theatrical traditions of the Royal Danish Ballet.


Alexandra Tomalonis has been writing dance criticism for the Washington Post since 1979, and she is the founding editor of DanceView, a quarterly dance review magazine. She has taught dance history and appreciation at George Washington University and George Mason University and has been guest lecturer at the Smithsonian Institution and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, among others.

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"A compelling portrait of the creative force driving the Royal Danish Ballet." - Paper Clips
--Paper Clips

"a seductively good read. It is the story of a great artist, the aristocrat of the spirit, and a man who fought without any compromises for a genuine dance art." - Politken
--Politken

"To have elicited and collected such memories is a stunning achievement." - Time Out
--Time Out New York

"An enjoyable divertissement for dance lovers and those interested in the performing arts, this is highly recommended." - Library Journal
--Library Journal

"An enjoyable divertissement for dance lovers and those interested in the performing arts, this is highly recommended." - Library Journal
--Library Journal

"A fascinating book…Tomalonis has done wonders in eliciting information from an extremely reticent artist." - Dance International
--Dance International

"…a vibrant, sumptuously illustrated biography of an infinitely adaptable artist. The writer offers rare insights into what happens in the RDB school and rehearsal rooms, which she haunted for the better part of a decade."
--Dance Magazine

"A welcome book on a unique dancer and artist."
--Dance Chronicle

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