Pas de Vingt


77 pages
Contains Illustrations
ISBN 0-88962-264-7





Reviewed by Mark Bastien

Mark Bastien was a Toronto-based journalist.


Pas de Vingt is a collection of drawings by Harold Town and poems by James Strecker that celebrate the resident and guest dancers of the National Ballet of Canada. This impressive volume includes an introduction by Veronica Tennant and a foreword by Karen Kain, the company’s foremost prima ballerinas.

The book is a beautifully produced homage to the grace and strength of ballet, and it should appeal to lovers of dance everywhere. The poems, each devoted to an individual artist of the National, are followed by delicate evocations of the dancers by Town. His exquisite renderings are apt companions to the quiet lyricism of Strecker. Like disciplined dancers, both men make their accomplishments look deceptively easy: we see the grace and beauty but not the sweat behind their work.

The drawings of Tennant, Kain, Yoko Ichino, Vanessa Harwood, and Sabina Allemann make one realize how different each of these dancers is: the line of the body, tilt of the head, and facial expression stress individuality. The reader gets a sense of the true complexity of these athletic, determined women. These images are complemented by Strecker’s words: Tennant is “candid perfume, blossom-scented like rain”; Kain, in “The Rite of Spring,” “sheds her skin, engenders blood of sacrifice”; Ichino’s “eyes speak a riddle for the outsider”.

In his poems about the male dancers, Strecker is most impressed with strength and finesse. Of Mikhail Baryshnikov he asks: “Who sculpted this boyish / dignity to climb /on boulders of air and, /suspended, stalemate time?” /The men attain heroic, mythological status; they are leaping Olympians. The women are described in delicate two-or three-line stanzas, but the men are given hefty blocks of many lines, stacked like muscle upon rippling muscle.

Mosaic Press has produced a glittering gem of a collection, as bright as the galaxy of star dancers it lovingly portrays. Like Veronica Tennant, this book is “The wake of a storm, /a torrent: /swirling, potent delicacy.”


Town, Harold, and James Strecker, “Pas de Vingt,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 21, 2024,