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"Jerome Robbins: Dance with Demons"


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#1 martykihn

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Posted 17 May 2001 - 06:22 PM

I just read this book, written by Greg Lawrence (he collaborated w/ his g.f. Gelsey Kirkland on the memorable "Dancing on My Grave"). it's quite long, stylistically what you'd call "chatty" -- the product of a prodigious number of rather revealing interviews w/ those who knew Robbins, often shoehorned into the text w/out much editing or interpretation on the part of Lawrence.

as a piece of prose it may be deficient, but thought of as a chronologically-arranged series of interviews (a la Peter Manso's "Mailer" or George Plimpton's "Edie") it's very interesting. Lawrence got many, many people to talk, and it's a good -- if not entirely thoughtful -- read.

how does Robbins emerge? in fact, he doesn't. we get a picture of a nasty, tortured, brutal man who was capable of stunning acts of kindness; a man who had sadistic quirks of personality but appears to have been the only person on earth to awe Balanchine; a man who loved kids and dogs, but not himself.

p.s., it contains some more texture to the ongoing "Did Balanchine want Martins to succeed him?" controversy. the answer appears to be no. (see p.450-55) NYCB manager Betty Cage is quoted calling the Board "stupid" and the chairman "dumb", picking Martins before G.B.'s death basically because he looked the part.

another great quote (from Wilma Curly), regarding G.B.: "George hated the school [S.A.B.]. He wouldn't go there. And every time I hear the quote, 'First a school,' I want to throw up. He hated the school."

#2 Mme. Hermine

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Posted 18 May 2001 - 08:12 AM

just as a side bar, gelsey kirkland was not greg lawrence's g.f. but rather his wife at that time....

#3 Giannina

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Posted 18 May 2001 - 10:56 AM

Originally posted by martyk:
another great quote (from Wilma Curly), regarding G.B.: "George hated the school [S.A.B.]. He wouldn't go there. And every time I hear the quote, 'First a school,' I want to throw up. He hated the school."


Is that, in fact, true?

Giannina

#4 Mel Johnson

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Posted 18 May 2001 - 01:16 PM

Kinda hard to check, now, as Wilma passed on last year.

#5 Alexandra

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Posted 18 May 2001 - 01:21 PM

Well, unless "George" had a double, it isn't true that he "wouldn't go there." There are an awful lot of stories by other dancers that are in conflict with that view. Perhaps Ms. Curley wasn't wild about the school, or maybe she caught Mr. B on a bad day :)

I'm also curious about marty's report that Robbins is portrayed as a man who "appears to have been the only person on earth to awe Balanchine."

#6 atm711

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Posted 21 May 2001 - 01:06 PM

Alexandra, I find your comments on Wilma Curley's opinion of SAB interesting. At the time I knew Wilma she was a child studying with George Chaffee, who doted on her talent. When she went on pointe he was careful in her choice of a shoe--he avoided a too hard toe box. It was a small studio with small classes, but it was time for her to spread her wings--she was not in the "right place at the right time". After her cocoon environment, she might have not found it too pleasant to be one of a few dozen.

#7 Alexandra

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Posted 21 May 2001 - 02:59 PM

Thanks for that story, atm. My point was merely that the statement attributed to her in Lawrence's book, according to the first post on this thread, does not comport with dozens and dozens of other dancers' statements, as well as stories from people I know who spoke with Balanchine, or saw him at the school, etc. Also, if Balanchine had hated the school, he would have changed it. He certainly had the power to do that.

One of the problems with the New Biography, is that people are plunking down every quote they have, especially anything remotely provocative, without putting it into context. It's the National Enquirer influence, I suppose. The problem is that people believe what they read -- why shouldn't we? aren't publishers supposed to be responsible and not let anything in to print that isn't true? -- and so a quote like this one will be taken as "truth" by a lot of people. I'm not saying Curley didn't believe it, but when you have a comment that's 360 degrees opposite from what everyone else says, I think you have an obligation to investigate it, surely -- and you may well have discovered something that IS true. But if it can't be supported by any other experiences or evidence, I think it's questionable to use it, and if it is used for the irresistible shock value, then it should be footnoted and put into context. (Which, of course, it may well have been. I haven't seen the book yet, and was responding to the post.)


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