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Markova, a consciously grand and very proper British lady, was renowned for giving an effortless appearance to her dancing; so, in many ways, this memoir accurately reflects the woman and her performing career: It reveals little of the mental and physical requisites of stardom--and none of the sweat. Balletomanes have heard many Markova stories over the years. She is especially notorious for achieving a floating, weightless effect in Giselle by forcing her partner to hoist her as dead weight, whereas other ballerinas give a small jump to help the man with the lift. She acquired a reputation for insisting on ""Black Magics,"" a British brand of chocolates, in her dressing room, and walking through certain rehearsals in a dress and high heels. None of that is refuted, explained or confirmed here. (Although there is a photograph of her choreographing Manon which shows her partner, dressed in the usual dancer's rehearsal clothes, lifting a carefully coiffed Markova, who is attired in a summer dress and high-heeled mules.) What we get instead reads rather like an official bio from Buckingham Palace. Understatement reigns. No emotion, no insight, but plenty of mentions of legendary figures and enough wry bits of British humor to keep the reader turning the pages. For example: she includes a charming little story about warming up to Benny Goodman's tune-up each night during the run of Billy Rose's revue, The Seven Lively Arts. And she recollects the ""green slime"" caused by the fresh lilies strewn by her partner Serge Lifar during their performances of Giselle. Going by this book, Markova had no personal life. Occasionally she mentions her sister Doris, but neglects to explain her sister's contribution to her career. She seems to have no comments on the development of her own technique or choreography. Similarly, if she has any thoughts on today's dancers and choreographers, she keeps them to herself. The memoir is padded with plenty of pictures, most of them carefully posed, none revelatory or rare. In all, disappointing.

Pub Date: Nov. 12th, 1986
Publisher: Little, Brown