GEORGE BALANCHINE: Ballet Master by Richard with John Taras Buckle


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A chatty march through the eight decades of Balanchine's life; Buckle makes few critical judgments, instead arranging a mass of interviews, other written accounts, letters, and so on into a rewarding chronicle. Buckle (Diaghilev, Nijinsky, Buckle at the Ballet) was an early Balanchine champion in London (when the choreographer's work was often panned there); he no longer needs to make many outright arguments for the presence of genius, but his respect and affection for his subject are always apparent. Buckle begins before the beginning: ""The Balanchivadze family came from the village of Banodzha in western Georgia, five kilometers from the mountain town of Kutaisi--whose coat of arms is the Golden Fleece--where distant cousins of Balanchine still live. . .""; follows Balanchine's career as a dancer (he accompanied a sister to her entrance examination for the Imperial Theater Ballet School and was himself accepted), and the transition to choreographer after leaving Russia for Western Europe (a glittering cast of characters here) before settling in the US at Lincoln Kirstein's invitation. The beginnings here were not auspicious: ""The American Ballet,"" as the first Kirstein/Balanchine company was billed, first performed in Hartford, where the theater ""proved unsuitable from every point of view. The stage-hands were volunteer Trinity students, and the chief electrician had to keep darting back to the campus to give lectures. . .the stage seemed to be on top of the fashionably dressed audience--which included George Gershwin and Salvador Dali--the dancers could be heard breathing, and their shoes squeaked."" Buckle continues on in engaging style through the glory days at the New York City Ballet, and on to the--bitter--end in April 1983. His final assessment: ""Balanchine was to the dance in the twentieth century what Michelangelo had been to sculpture in the sixteenth, and it could be argued that in one short ballet by the greatest of choreographers there were more ingenious 'sculptures' than the Florentine master carved in the course of his long life."" An engaging, straightforward accounting.

Publisher: Random House