CHOURA: The Memoirs of Alexandra Danilova by Alexandra Danilova

CHOURA: The Memoirs of Alexandra Danilova

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An insider's look at ballet's last 70 years, this is an engrossing view from the top. Danilova studied at the legendary Imperial Ballet School during the last days of the tsars, survived the revolution to become a member of the Soviet company which succeeded the Maryinsky, starred in the Ballet Russe companies that were Diaghilev's successors, and is now a renowned teacher at the prestigious School of American Ballet. Her historical perspective on all of this may not have much psychological introspection or be loaded with names and dates; but with Danilova you learn what the food was like at the Imperial Ballet School, which male dancers were well built, and which ballerinas were well dressed. Choura (the traditional Russian diminutive for Alexandra) devotes the first quarter of her book to her student days, and concludes with a chapter on her classes and her theories of training dancers. Another leitmotif is her relationship with George Balanchine, who played variously friend, choreographer and ""husband,"" and who reappeared late in her life to cast her in her second starring role--as a teacher. Danilova had an exceptionally long career. Throughout much of it she was not just an acclaimed ballerina, but a renowned ""glamorpuss""--a word she herself uses to describe a couple of her contemporaries. Here you can see why. She uses the story of her life as an illustration of a star's responsibility to her public, and admonishes young performers to behave in a fashion suitable to public figures. Her refreshingly pragmatic attitude toward her life and career results in the best possible ending a memoir could have: ""I gave one hundred percent of myself to my art, and my art has repaid me.

Pub Date: Nov. 20th, 1986
Publisher: Knopf