ONCE A DANCER...

AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY

A daffy and unexpectedly poignant autobiography by the beguiling Balanchine ballerina celebrated in her heyday as a ``rubber orchid.'' Kent, born Iris Margo Cohen in 1937 ``on the very day Edith Wharton died, but in a different time zone,'' repossesses as a writer the unpredictable charm of her dancing. She is zanily elegant, summing up the young Edward Villella's virtuoso hallmark as his ``pronging springbok elevation.'' (And she assesses her own in this way: ``There was a bit of Isadora and mountain goat in my dancing.'') Her life sounds like that of a struggling heroine in a novel by Mona Simpson—frequently stranded, broke, desperate, abused, or abandoned, yet well served by a fey kind of gumption. During a childhood spent in constant transit between east, west, and south American coasts, Kent studied ballet with Bronislava Nijinksa and Carmelita Maracci before entering the School of American Ballet in New York. There she was singled out early, joining the New York City Ballet while still a teenager. Though Kent's narrative bent is too flirty to allow for analysis of Balanchine's work or of her fellow dancers, she shares festively witty peeks at the ballet establishment. Kent also lacks the instinct for sustained introspection, which limits her ability to fathom her family's chronic instability or her own difficult marriage to a drug-addicted, philandering photographer. As a onetime Christian Scientist whose career, paradoxically, was badly, briefly compromised by the effects of amateurish plastic surgery, she is replete with unprobed psychological corners. The story of her losses is at times very painful. Still, Kent can't fail to enchant with her odd tales of artist-friend Joseph Cornell, New York City Ballet colleague Violette Verdy's ``yelp therapy,'' and her own pregnancy (``My stomach was a large, round, hard dome like a planetarium'').

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 1997

ISBN: 0-312-15051-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1996

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NUTCRACKER

This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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TO THE ONE I LOVE THE BEST

EPISODES FROM THE LIFE OF LADY MENDL (ELSIE DE WOLFE)

An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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