STILL POINT by Deborah Weisgall


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A lead-footed and ham-handed roman à clef whose principal appeal will be for New York City ballet fans mildly curious as to whether art imitates nature or vice versa. Achille Perrot, choreographer extraordinaire, heads an eponymous dance company whose financial and administrative needs are the province of Sumner Loewen, wealthy and manipulative heir to a textile fortune. The aging Balanchine stand-in has little care for the future of his troupe or even its dancers, whom he unsentimentally views as interchangeable or, if need be, replaceable. Maitre Perrot nonetheless has a soft spot in his hardened heart for danseur noble Alexander lves--at least until the Peter Martins analogue creates a ballet for himself and two ballerinas with whom he has had self-absorbed affairs. Paying no attention to Perrot's wishes, Loewen tacitly encourages Alexander's efforts at choreography (to ensure an orderly succession of artistic power when the time comes) and actively seeks to secure endowment funds. Among the potential patrons Loewen attracts is Eveline de Charnay, a coke-snorting heiress with failed aspirations as a classical dancer. Competing with her father for the affections of a rising male star in the Perrot company, Eveline contributes to the fast-living youth's untimely death. Her penance is to join the ranks of the company's anonymous benefactors at the behest of the blackmailing Loewen, whose scheming appears prescient when Perrot is felled by a terminal bone-marrow disease. While journalist Weisgall has a savvy outsider's command of classical-ballet detail, her linear narrative does not build to a consequential climax. Nor does her pretentiously graceless prose ("". . .she had excavated pits of urban darkness into her flat innocence"") ring very true. Apart from some dirt-dishing profiles drawn from identifiable dance-world originals, then, a most unsatisfactory performance.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1990
Publisher: Crown