The Joffrey Ballet: Robert Joffrey and the Making of an American Dance Companyby Sasha Anawalt
The Joffrey Ballet is a comprehensive history of the quintessential American dance troupe and a textured portrait of Robert Joffrey, the creative maverick who led and inspired it. Broadly researched, richly anecdotal, and elegantly written, The Joffrey Ballet probes the complex relationship that exists between a culture and its artists through the/i>/i>
The Joffrey Ballet is a comprehensive history of the quintessential American dance troupe and a textured portrait of Robert Joffrey, the creative maverick who led and inspired it. Broadly researched, richly anecdotal, and elegantly written, The Joffrey Ballet probes the complex relationship that exists between a culture and its artists through the prism of this company's story.
"[The Joffrey Ballet is] remarkable for its warmth and vigor, and for its blending of candor and judiciousness."—Jack Anderson, New York Times Book Review
"A milestone in dance writing. Few studies in the field will be able to match Sasha Anawalt's elegant style."—Anna Kisselgoff, New York Times
"Anawalt transforms years of meticulous research into a cliffhanger of a history."—Elizabeth Zimmer, dance editor, Village Voice
"[The Joffrey Ballet] is a meticulously detailed, well-documented history, juiced with a little gossip here and there . . . [and] a valuable sweeping look at this all-important troupe."—Sid Smith, Chicago Tribune Book Review
"[Anawalt's] approach is deeper and more satisfying than straightforward biography."—Marcia B. Siegel, Village Voice
Anawalt, a California dance critic, is an unabashed fan of Joffrey's, yet this volume is no encomium. Instead, her briskly written account of the company from its mythically modest beginnings in 1954 to Joffrey's death from AIDS in 1988 at the age of 59 collects and interprets suggestive facts at nearly every turn. Joffrey's obsession with ballet emerged early: He staged his first ballets when he was a child in Seattle, with costumes borrowed from a neighborhood dry cleaner. When he eventually launched his own company, it was a seat-of-the-pants affair: The fledgling group's no-frills tours of the US were made in a red and white station wagon, driven in breakneck fashion by a roguish stage manager; to save time and money after typical one-night-stand performances, the dancers washed their ballet duds "by standing in the hotel showers with the tutus and tights still on, throwing laundry detergent over themselves, and then drying the smaller pieces out the next day on the car's interior door handles." In addition to her rich store of anecdotes, Anawalt is equally forthcoming in characterizing each stage of the company's struggle to survive and the artistic hallmarks of the evolving Joffrey style ("Learn the classical techniquethen forget it," Joffrey advised) and mindfully eclectic repertory (Gerald Arpino, Joffrey's frequent collaborator and longtime companion, was successful because he "made ballets for people who hate ballet," she succinctly notes). Unusual among dance critics, she never hides behind a professional dance vocabulary. She also ventures worthwhile observations on contextual issues, such as the uncomfortable coupling of dance with business in this country and the politics of American arts funding.
An intelligent, fair, fascinating portrait of a seminal figure in American ballet.
- University of Chicago Press
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- 6.36(w) x 9.54(h) x 1.04(d)
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