ENCORE by Monique Raphel High


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Over 700 pages of extravagantly emotive grands jetÉs, in which three passionate Russians--an exquisite prima assoluta, an artist, and a brilliant aristocratic balletomane--sob and soar through the tumultous, Diaghilev-dominated days of the modern Russian ballet (circa 1905-1927). The show gets underway when Count Boris Kussov (with ""hair a Florentine gold,"" a thirst for the arts, and a desire to possess lovely and delicate objects) tosses a rose to the Sugar Plum Fairy in the Imperial Ballet's Nutcracker: Natalia Oblonova. Boris will become her patron, but the arrangement does not include physical passion; Boris smolders instead with frustrated desire for young artist Pierre Riazhin, a Georgian ""with the body of a black panther"" who is both dazzled and repelled by Boris. And, though career-oriented Natalia admires and gently loves Boris (he understands her soul), she will inevitably join Pierre in one night of grand passion. Then follow years of ferocious, revengeful acts, remorse, and endless confrontations. Boris marries for money, divorces immediately, sees to it that Pierre is dismissed from Diaghilev's band of artists. Natalia marries Boris, and, to their mutual delight and amazement, he finds he can love a woman, and they have a baby (who will die). But Boris will be killed in the war, while Pierre is cast into poverty--and later he will save Natalia from Germany, marry her, and dump her (for Boris' niece Galina, Natalia's dearest friend). Throughout, there are overheated, lush histrionics--Do you love me as you ought? Have I completely forgotten that other one I loved? What of my art, my destiny? Etc.--which verge on burlesque. But there are also ballet vignettes, feasts and furs, scenic tours, and convincing period ambience. All in all--too much, too sweet, less vividly familial than The Four Winds of Heaven (1980), yet with lots to dance about for the Red Shoes readership.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1981
Publisher: Delacorte