HOLDING ON TO THE AIR: An Autobiography by Suzanne with Toni Bentley Farrell
Kirkus Star

HOLDING ON TO THE AIR: An Autobiography

Email this review


Absolutely spellbinding: Ballerina Farrell's autobiography is the story of someone doing exactly what she wanted in life, and loving every minute of it. Through her work with George Balanchine, it is also the story of one of the greatest artistic collaborations in dance. Assisted by Toni Bentley (Winter season, 1982), Farrell reveals herself to be utterly single-minded--but certainly not passionless. Listen to her description of Balanchine's serenade: ""With its shadowy lighting, girls in long, pale tulle, and implications of great emotion and passion, it exemplifies Balanchine's reaction to Tchaikovsky . . .and to plot. There is no story, yet there are many stories, many moods, many emotions, many loves. . ."" But while understanding this, Farrell goes on to explain that she didn't consider any of it when learning a new role--she concentrated only on the steps themselves, and through them found the meaning of each ballet. Farrell pinpoints her appeal as a dancer to Balanchine: she had no one particular technical strength, but she could move, ""and if I could incorporate what Balanchine wanted with my movement, it might blossom into something--it could be anything. . ."" Farrell is equally forthright about her offstage relationship with the great choreographer--including Balanchine's fury and her subsequent dismissal from the New York City Ballet when she married dancer Paul Mejia--and about the eventual resolution allowing her return. On not marrying Balanchine: ""Because I couldn't give George everything he wanted, I became committed to making it up to him some other way. . .It became quite simple--every time I danced it was life or death for me."" Farrell follows her career from childhood through to her retirement in 1989. (Her account of Balanchine's slow decline and death is poignant and moving.) There is plenty here about her partners and her dance world, but it transcends gossip because Farrell comes across as being unaffected by the pettiness and intrigues of the New York City Ballet atmosphere--freed by her intense, joyous involvement in her work. An uplifting, splendid memoir.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1990
ISBN: 0813025931
Publisher: Summit/Simon & Schuster