George Balanchine: The Ballet Maker (Eminent Lives Series)

George Balanchine: The Ballet Maker (Eminent Lives Series)

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by Robert Gottlieb
     
 

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Written by the gifted author, editor, and dance critic Robert Gottlieb, George Balanchine describes the life and art of the celebrated, revolutionary ballet choreographer. Here is a necessary and singular look at the life of one of the great figures of the 20th Century: the dynamic Balanchine, founder of The New York City Ballet, collaborator ofSee more details below

Overview

Written by the gifted author, editor, and dance critic Robert Gottlieb, George Balanchine describes the life and art of the celebrated, revolutionary ballet choreographer. Here is a necessary and singular look at the life of one of the great figures of the 20th Century: the dynamic Balanchine, founder of The New York City Ballet, collaborator of Stravinsky, and inspiration to countless fans over the course of his long and storied career. George Balanchine is another engaging entry in the HarperCollins’ “Eminent Lives” series of biographies by distinguished authors on canonical figures.

Editorial Reviews

The New Yorker
Balanchine’s reputation as a choreographer is so immense that his personality can be eclipsed, at least for those who never knew him. Gottlieb, an ardent fan since 1948, did come to know him a bit while serving on the board of New York City Ballet. In this brief yet energetic biography, he moves briskly through an extraordinarily eventful life. The early chapters detail Balanchine’s fine musical education in Russia (piano, harmony, counterpoint), his dancing (curtailed by an injury when he was in his twenties), and his many false starts as he tried to gain a foot-hold in the West. A colleague of the period recalled performances in an insane asylum and a beer garden (“We followed a dog act”). Once in the States, Balanchine embraced every aspect of his new home, working on Broadway and in Hollywood, wearing bolo ties, and—in such works as “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue”—adapting the vocabulary of classical dance to the rhythms of America.
Jennifer Dunning
Mr. Gottlieb is at his best when he writes about Balanchine at work, as in his description of the creation of "Concerto Barocco." Balanchine the artist comes suddenly and immediately alive in Mr. Gottlieb's graceful description of the making of that seminal Balanchine classic in 1941. A member of the original cast, he writes, remembers that there was a movement in the adagio that Balanchine called "the Harlem strut." "There was a lot of kidding around in the rehearsals," he quotes that cast member, Fred Danieli, as saying. "We did that strut as a joke, and Balanchine liked it and kept it in."
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
One would be hard-pressed to find a better match for Balanchine for this entry in the Eminent Lives series than Gottlieb, the distinguished editor and dance critic who for years was on the board of directors of the New York City Ballet. Although he knew Balanchine, Gottlieb is quick to point out it was not a close relationship: "To me... he was a god, and I saw my role as being some kind of messenger of the gods." But Gottlieb captures both the divine and human, offering an elegant, sharp and sophisticated take on the choreographer's life. In many instances he elaborates on points made in Bernard Taper's seminal biography, Balanchine. And he adds personal moments, such as Balanchine's comment regarding his choice of successor at the New York City Ballet: "Balanchine made that very clear to me as we were standing in the wings together.... `It has to be Peter [Martins].... He knows what a ballerina needs.' " This loving tribute captures Balanchine's legacy: his energy, confidence, lack of pretension and, most important, his joy in creation. B&w photos. (Nov. 1) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
This new work about Balanchine is like a ballet by the master himself-it goes right to the heart of things. At first one is surprised by its brevity. But Gottlieb, once editor in chief of Knopf, Simon & Schuster, and The New Yorker and for many years intimately connected to the New York City Ballet, offers an informed study that is at once concise and nuanced. Gottlieb covers all the basics, from Balanchine's early training with the Maryinsky, to his first choreographic efforts while on the run throughout Europe, to Lincoln Kirstein's fabled intervention and Balanchine's arrival and eventual triumph in America. The result is a nicely compressed introduction for newcomers that still offers insights to Balanchine fanatics; Gottlieb often relates accepted versions of events (Balanchine could ignore or embroider the facts), then does his research and surmises what really happened. Those wanting more discussion of the ballets themselves might try Robert Garis's Following Balanchine or Terry Teachout's new work (see below), but this is an eminent summation of what was indeed an "eminent life." For all dance collections and any general collection needing updated coverage on Balanchine. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 7/04.]-Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Another brief biography published to coincide with the centennial of the legendary choreographer's birth, gaining color and immediacy from the author's behind-the-scenes knowledge of the New York City Ballet. Gottlieb, former editor-in-chief of Alfred A. Knopf and The New Yorker, served on the NYCB board of directors for more than a decade and knew Balanchine personally, though not intimately. The author makes excellent use of quotations from his subject and from generations of dancers' memoirs to vividly capture the choreographer's personality. Early chapters on Balanchine's youth in Russia and apprentice years at the Ballets Russes in Paris highlight the charm and calm professionalism that enabled him to make radical breaks with ballet tradition without alienating his dancers-as seen in such late 1920s masterpieces as Apollo and Prodigal Son. As the narrative moves on to Balanchine's rootless early years in America, working on Broadway and in Hollywood while he struggled to establish his own school and company, Gottlieb continues to emphasize the important role played by the women and men who studied with Mr. B and incarnated his visions in the flesh. (For once, Diana Adams, Allegra Kent, Melissa Hayden, Jacques d'Amboise, Edward Villella and Peter Martins get equal time with Balanchine's more famous muses/wives.) Gottlieb began attending the ballet in 1948, NYCB's inaugural season, and his descriptions of such historic premieres as Firebird, Agon, Stars and Stripes and Don Quixote benefit from his firsthand knowledge. Readers will also get a solid understanding of the backstage contributions made by NYCB administrators Lincoln Kirstein, Betty Cage, Eddie Bigelow and Barbara Horgan. Atthe center of it all stands the choreographer, much loved (even by his ex-wives) yet fundamentally unknowable, more deeply engaged with his art than with other human beings. Since Balanchine took that art form to new heights over the course of his lifetime, that doesn't seem like such a tragic trade-off. Livelier and gossipier than Terry Teachout's earnest primer, All the Dances (p. 953), though less explicitly instructive about Balanchine's historic significance. Ballet lovers, of course, will want to read both.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780060750718
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
02/09/2010
Series:
Eminent Lives Series
Pages:
216
Sales rank:
516,958
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.70(d)

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