MASSINE: A Biography by Vicente "Garc¡a-Mrqnez

MASSINE: A Biography

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KIRKUS REVIEW

What Massine has done, other choreographers have done--later."" The quip by A.V. Coton would be a fitting epigraph to this biography of the now-underappreciated modernist ballet choreographer by the late ballet historian Garc¡a-Mrquez. Born in Moscow, L‚onide Massine (1895-1979) trained at the Moscow Imperial Theater School. He joined the Bolshoi Ballet in 1912 and was discovered soon after by the legendary Ballets Russes impresario, Serge Diaghilev, who cast the newcomer in a series of prominent roles in the productions of that company (e.g., ""The Legend of Joseph""); encouraged his growth as a choreographer; claimed him as a lover; and ultimately exploited him. (Massine complained in a letter to his family, circa 1922: ""I felt as though I was in a gilded cage which suffocated and oppressed my entire spirit."") After being banished from the Ballets Russes by his onetime mentor, Massine went on to choreograph and dance for many other European, British, and American companies and to make memorable appearances on film (most notably in The Red Shoes) before his highly theatrical choreography was swamped by the triumphant onset of stripped-down Balanchinian neoclassicism. Garc¡a-Mrquez chronicles this rise and fall (and recommended resurgence) with equanimity, though his characterizations of Massine the man are often mawkish. ""Le devin L‚onide,"" while ""made of uncommonly rich clay,"" was ""cloaked in mystery."" The biographer takes a ""historical"" approach ""since time after time the inner man simply could not be coaxed to the surface."" Too bad. What we get instead is a workmanlike survey of Massine's choreographic achievement (Le Beau Danube, Le Tricorne, GaŒt‚ parisienne, La Boutique fantasque) with detours to explore his amorous adventures, including several marriages (details here, though, are regrettably minimal). Massine's enigmatic mask seems lamentably fixed for a man whose choreographic innovations included ""frisky, flirtatious movements"" for dancing poodles. But for now, this is the best account we have of him.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1995
Page count: 456pp
Publisher: Knopf