For sixteen years, from 1959 to 1975, Richard Buckle's articles in the Sunday Times were the most eagerly awaited and passionately perused ballet criticism in the English-speaking world. Before that he had written for the Observer and for his own magazine Ballet. Although most of the pieces included in this book are from the Sunday Times, a few date from as far back as the mid-1940s: this anthology is therefore the harvest of thirty-five years' ballet going.
The qualities which brought Buckle a wide readership beyond the specialist circle of balletomanes were undoubtedly his wit and humour. Most weeks his column could be relied upon for a laugh, for some unexpected burst of fantasy or for an unexpected comic twist to a shrewd opinion. Yet Buckle himself always counted it a blessing that he was not tied down to writing a humorous article every week; for the enforced jocularity of the professional comedian soon grows wearisome, and after a year or two nobody wants to read him any more. Everyone always wanted to read Buckle.
In addition, Richard Buckle had a knack for putting his finger on a ballet's strong point or weak spot, for extracting the essence of a work and expressing it in evocative prose.
Prose, however, is not all this book contains. Buckle's 'occasional verse', some of it published for the first time, also finds a place in this book. The author can parody Shakespeare in blank verse as well as he can write heroic couplets and ballads, or can encapsulate the book of Genesis in a limerick.
Perhaps Buckle's most important work was as a talent-spotter and prophet of new forms. He was the first to champion Balanchine when the New York City Ballet came to London in 1950; but this did not prevent him from acclaiming Martha Graham's very different kind of dance four years later.
For a quarter of a century, as editor and exhibition designer, Richard Buckle worked with some of the outstanding artists of the day; and some of them have illustrated this book.