PRIVATE VIEW: Inside Baryshnikov's American Ballet Theatre by John Fraser

PRIVATE VIEW: Inside Baryshnikov's American Ballet Theatre

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A chatty and reverent year-in-the-life-of Baryshnikov and the American Ballet Theater (ABT). Canadian journalist (and Saturday Night editor) Fraser ""trailed the elusive superstar and his company on both sides of the Atlantic"" from August 1986 to September 1987--a period that included shooting the film Dancers, a US tour, and the New York and Washington seasons. Fraser is a rapt fan of the ballet world, and ABT allowed him almost unlimited access, it seems; he can thus provide a knowledgeable accounting of just what makes up the day-to-day workings of this major company. He begins by remembering Baryshnikov's defection to Canada in 1974--Fraser himself had a small hand in the dash for freedom--and explains that he and Baryshnikov have remained friends since. And Fraser shows himself to be a strong ally: ""Love him or hate him, and everyone at ABT does both at some time, this singular, elusive, playful, brooding, egotistical, and self-deprecating Russian is the shining sphere which everyone and everything orbits. . . Few people know he works at ABT for nothing--not one red cent. Few people know how he craves to be freed from the prison of daily exercise and the worsening pains in his body."" There is much more here on Baryshnikov, including a genuinely moving account of his early family life (his mother committed suicide). On other ABT business, Fraser can be a catty, gleeful inside eye who tells all. When Nan Kempner (""not just another society lady around ABT; she is the high priestess of fund raising"") discovered her plans for a gala had been changed in her absence, she threw a fit--well detailed here. Fraser was also observing and gives the lowdown on salary and casting disputes, Gelsey Kirland-bashing (reaction to her tell-all Dancing on My Grave), endless infighting, and Patrick Bissell's death from an overdose. Coming from a real fan like Fraser, this inside look is good fun.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1988
Publisher: Bantam