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Balanchine: A Biography

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Written with wit, insight, and candor, Balanchine is a book that will delight lovers of biography as well as those with a special interest in dance. For this edition the author has added a thoughtful yet dramatic account of the working out of Balanchine's legacy, from the making of his controversial will to the present day. The author explores the intriguing legal, financi Written with wit, insight, and candor, Balanchine is a book that will delight lovers of biography as well as those with a special interest in dance. For this edition the author has added a thoughtful yet dramatic account of the working out of Balanchine's legacy, from the making of his controversial will to the present day. The author explores the intriguing legal, financial, and institutional subplots that unfolded after the death of the greatest choreographer of the century, but the central plot of his epilogue is the aesthetic issue: In the absence of their creator, can the ballets retain their wondrous vitality? Taper illuminates the fascinating transmission of Balanchine's masterworks from one generation to another, an unprecented legacy in the history of ballet, that most evanescent of the arts.


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Written with wit, insight, and candor, Balanchine is a book that will delight lovers of biography as well as those with a special interest in dance. For this edition the author has added a thoughtful yet dramatic account of the working out of Balanchine's legacy, from the making of his controversial will to the present day. The author explores the intriguing legal, financi Written with wit, insight, and candor, Balanchine is a book that will delight lovers of biography as well as those with a special interest in dance. For this edition the author has added a thoughtful yet dramatic account of the working out of Balanchine's legacy, from the making of his controversial will to the present day. The author explores the intriguing legal, financial, and institutional subplots that unfolded after the death of the greatest choreographer of the century, but the central plot of his epilogue is the aesthetic issue: In the absence of their creator, can the ballets retain their wondrous vitality? Taper illuminates the fascinating transmission of Balanchine's masterworks from one generation to another, an unprecented legacy in the history of ballet, that most evanescent of the arts.

30 review for Balanchine: A Biography

  1. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    I've finally read the definitive Balanchine biography, and I have to admit that I'm disappointed. On the one hand, I finally have a solid, chronological understanding of his early life and career, up to the point where he and the New York City Ballet get a stable reputation and following. After that, Taper just sort of skims over the developments in Balanchine's life until the end, where he gives a drawn out (seriously, I think it was a third of the book) retelling of Mr. B's last years and fail I've finally read the definitive Balanchine biography, and I have to admit that I'm disappointed. On the one hand, I finally have a solid, chronological understanding of his early life and career, up to the point where he and the New York City Ballet get a stable reputation and following. After that, Taper just sort of skims over the developments in Balanchine's life until the end, where he gives a drawn out (seriously, I think it was a third of the book) retelling of Mr. B's last years and failing health, followed by a painfully detailed description of NYCB's inevitably rocky transition to life after Balanchine. I just wish Taper had kept up the pace through the 1950s and 60s, the part of his life that I know most about but was craving having some more details filled in. Taper offers us less detail with each successive wife: already skimping on Tallcheif, offering even less on LeClerq, and almost completely ignoring Suzanne Farrell (yes I know they never married, but at the least she should have gotten more text for her artistic partnership with Balanchine). I want juicier details! Come on! Most of the time, the language is overly wordy and poetic without being very moving, but I found it pretty forgivable. My biggest complaint is that after Apollo and Serenade, Taper offers little explanation as to what about Balanchine's ballets were significant and interesting (until, of course, some of the last ballets, particularly Robert Schumann's "Davidsbundlertanze".) It's not really a flaw of the book-- the reader comes away with a general understanding about Balanchine's logic and art-- but after reading Joan Accocela's Mark Morris book and Marcia B Siegel's new Tharp biography, I really want every choreographer bio to look closely at the dances, both objectively and in reference to the events in the artist's life. Fortunately, there's no shortage of biographies on Balanchine, histories of the New York City Ballet, critical writing on his work, or biographies (and autobiographies) of his many wives and ballerinas. So off I go in search of more details.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    The definitive biography of Balanchine. If you are going to read one bio about him, this should be the one.

  3. 4 out of 5

    James Steichen

    This is far and away the most important biography of George Balanchine, one of the leading choreographers of the twentieth century and the founder of the New York City Ballet. Bernard Taper was a reporter for the New Yorker and this book initially began as a series of articles in the magazine. He expanded and revised it several times. While some of the stories in the biography are probably somewhat mythologized, it is based on interviews with Balanchine himself and thus is an important reference This is far and away the most important biography of George Balanchine, one of the leading choreographers of the twentieth century and the founder of the New York City Ballet. Bernard Taper was a reporter for the New Yorker and this book initially began as a series of articles in the magazine. He expanded and revised it several times. While some of the stories in the biography are probably somewhat mythologized, it is based on interviews with Balanchine himself and thus is an important reference on his career. This will always remain a classic biography and well worth reading!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Olivia Funk

    omfg, yes.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    This is by far the best of the many Balanchine bios I read this year. Taper spent a lot of time with Balanchine, talking with him and observing the way he worked and interacted with people. His narrative is peppered with fun anecdotes that illustrate Balanchine's personality, and overall the book is comprehensive and not salacious (considering the way NYCB used to provide a lot of society column fodder). In particular, Taper is either being coy or else he's uncomfortable about Suzanne Farrell, d This is by far the best of the many Balanchine bios I read this year. Taper spent a lot of time with Balanchine, talking with him and observing the way he worked and interacted with people. His narrative is peppered with fun anecdotes that illustrate Balanchine's personality, and overall the book is comprehensive and not salacious (considering the way NYCB used to provide a lot of society column fodder). In particular, Taper is either being coy or else he's uncomfortable about Suzanne Farrell, disposing of what others have called "The Farrell Years" in a paragraph; he leaves a beautiful, full-page portrait of Farrell to say the rest. My absolute favorite part is when Balanchine comes to Hollywood to choreograph for Samuel Goldwyn, rents a bungalow on Fairfax and falls in love with Los Angeles because it's a warm paradise where he can have slices of lemon from his own backyard in his tea. Apparently he felt he had been transported back to his ancestral Georgian home. Fuck yeah, GB totally loved LA and that's good enough for me.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Rona

    Great book if you are interested in learning about this incredible choreographer...

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jenn Ryan

    Very interesting account of Balanchine's life - very well written and engaging. Very interesting account of Balanchine's life - very well written and engaging.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Charley

  9. 5 out of 5

    Meg

  10. 4 out of 5

    Leslie Zemeckis

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jacqueline Hurwitz

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen O'Hanlon

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

  14. 5 out of 5

    heather jackson

  15. 5 out of 5

    Dee

  16. 4 out of 5

    Lorelei

  17. 4 out of 5

    Ara

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

  19. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Blight

  20. 5 out of 5

    Heather

  21. 4 out of 5

    Andy Hoke

  22. 5 out of 5

    Deborah f Tweten

  23. 4 out of 5

    Claire Bailey

  24. 5 out of 5

    Julian

  25. 5 out of 5

    Te Za

  26. 4 out of 5

    Greg McConeghy

  27. 4 out of 5

    Rita Winters

  28. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jenny F

  30. 4 out of 5

    Ottoleo

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