Six years after his passing, Alexander McQueen remains one of the world’s iconic designers. His revolutionary fashions were both shocking and impressive, from the “bumsters” of his debut 1993 collection to the bloody rendition of his Scottish heritage in the controversial Highland Rape show. Alexander McQueen: Unseen (Yale, $65), by Robert Fairer, brings us a little closer to McQueen’s earliest runway shows, which, dating to pre-social media years, were difficult to see. In this rich book of images, Fairer, a backstage photographer for Vogue, replicates the experience of each and every Alexander McQueen runway. He briefly describes the context, the atmosphere, the sounds, and the lights of each show, then transports us to a front-row runway seat, telling us what it was like to actually be there and see McQueen’s work first-hand. The photographs are vibrant and expressive; with details from old film negatives, Fairer juxtaposes one picture against another, mimicking the action of the runway. He intersperses full-frontal fashion shots with varied angles and backstage views of the models laughing together with makeup smeared over their eyelids. This book is a gorgeous tribute to McQueen’s artistry and theatre and a perfect addition to any fashion lover’s bookshelf.
In their elegant folio, The Art of Movement (Black Dog & Leventhal, $50), photographers Ken Browar and Deborah Ory use agile lighting, premier color separation, and gorgeous black-and-white contrast to capture the graceful line and flow of dancers’ limbs, costumes, and torsos. Over the course of some three-hundred dazzling pages, these amazing photos are accompanied with insightful quotations on their principals—artists of such premier companies as The Royal Ballet, The Martha Graham Company, New York City Ballet, and Alvin Ailey, with solos by Misty Copeland, Robert Fairchild, Masha Dashkina Maddux, PeiJu Chien-Pott, and Lloyd Knight. The art of dance is an art of transcendence, and these images not only take bodies beyond their own immediate spaces, they fill space with a stunning suspension. These are dancers in an elemental state—appearing to be floating simultaneously in air and water. Anchored with choice design and weighted paper, The Art of Movement is a prime holiday selection for any dance enthusiast.
The history of the Bolshoi is a history of juxtapositions: beauty, grace, incredible dancers and performances, gold leaf and red velvet get as much stage time as arson, abuse, personal grudges, and rivalries. In Bolshoi Confidential: Secrets of the Russian Ballet from the Rule of the Tsars to Today (Liveright, $35), Simon Morrison, a Princeton professor of music and author of a profile of the Prokofievs, Lina and Serge, looks at all sides of this premier ballet company, from the building that houses it, its directors and managers, to its choreographers, composers, and dancers. He fully justifies the claim that ballet is “the most Russian of arts” (even if the first Moscow ballet was started by an Englishman). Morrison also studies the Bolshoi as a cultural institution, a diplomatic tool, and a symbol of national power and pride. Indeed, the Bolshoi’s backstage life is a microcosm of modern “grime and glitz” Russia, with politics and art inextricably linked.