FOLLOWING BALANCHINE by Robert Garis

FOLLOWING BALANCHINE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Garis follows himself following Balanchine through the decades--with perhaps too much reverence, redeemed by love and critical acumen. Garis (English/Wellesley) is not a man of catholic dance tastes; for him ballet is primarily a one-man/one-woman show- -Balanchine and Suzanne Farrell (with whom he seems almost as obsessed as Mr. B. himself was, although Garis has accolades for Violette Verdy, too). But having spent four decades studying Balanchine's work, Garis is a worthy docent. One might take issue with his view of criticism (adapted from music critic B.H. Haggin) as a form of reading the artist's mind, reconstructing the creative process from watching the ballet itself. But it does lead to eye- opening insights, as in his brilliant reevaluation of the Balanchine/Stravinsky collaboration, which, he says, concluded in Balanchine's self-defeating evisceration of his Firebird and Apollo as an act of rage against Stravinsky's control. Similarly, he asks, why did Balanchine set a pas de deux to Bach's slow movement in Concerto Barocco and a pas de trois to Mozart's slow movement in Symphonie Concertante? The question seems superfluous until one sees how Garis's answer reveals the development of the pas de deux in Balanchine's work and the differing emotional weights of the two dance forms. The early chapter on Garis's formation as a critic is charming and his emphasis on the exhilaration of experiencing great art (rooted in his evangelical upbringing) is refreshing. Writing with his typical low-key humor, he says of the power of his own responses: ``I seemed to myself to be having a brilliant career as a ballet watcher.'' Any NYCB watcher will want to compare notes with Garis on dances and dancers, and his ingenuous insights into a critic's development and thought make this a primer for budding critics in all the arts. (46 illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: May 17th, 1995
ISBN: 0-300-06178-1
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Yale Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1995




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