A GRAND PASSION by Mary Mackey


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Three generations of danseuses cavort across the pages of this new saga by Makey (McCarthy's List, The Last Warrior Queen) along with lots of the famous names of 20th-century dance--Diaghilev, Balanchine, Isadora Duncan. Some of the major events of the last hundred years, like the Russian Revolution and WW I and Il, make cameo appearances, too. But altogether there's more set dressing than credible human drama here--especially when it turns out that the novel's modus operandi is, perhaps, the most hackneyed of all saga plot devices--the incest theme. On the stage of the Maryinski Theatre (St. Petersburg, 1911), Natasha Ladanova, aged 11, makes her debut dancing Petipa's ""The Buccaneer"" with a lethally handsome danseur, Sergei Maximov. Natasha wins kudos and a Russian count to support her balletic habit, but can't get Sergei out of her head, even when he packs up his leotards and heads for Paris to join the vanguard of 20th-century dance. Natasha follows after her kindly count disappears during the Revolution, dances with Sergei's Ballet de la CitÉ, then bears his child (why, we wonder, though, does she consider going to see Dr. Freud to confirm her pregnancy? Perhaps because she's in Vienna at the time). Inconstant Sergei then moves on to greener pastures in New York, leaving Natasha to marry a rich Bostonian, who's, alas, impotent due to injuries sustained during the war. Her daughter, Tatiana, marries Sergei's son by another ballerina, despite Natasha's protests (although there is a modicum of doubt that Sergei was her dad). Tat goes on to develop a drug habit, polio, and to become a Hollywood-musical dance queen, then dies in a fire with her husband. Which leaves her daughter, Alysa, to take center stage, making her debut in a Sergei Maximov ballet without knowing that its choreographer is her granddad. Alysa muffs it by dancing on a sprained ankle, but grandma pulls an ace out of her sleeve: Sergei must take Alysa back into his company if he wants the only remaining record of Petipa's choreography for the lost ballet, ""The Buccaneer."" He does; the curtain drops. Here--with a plot more the stuff of soap opera than classical ballet--there may be some slim pleasure in watching the Ladanova gifts move around the stage, but, overall, the emotional choreography keeps their footwork leaden.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1986
Publisher: Simon & Schuster