canbelto

Who needs a biography?

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Julie Kavanagh's comprehensive biography of Nureyev, the THREE biographies of Jerome Robbins, plus Daneman's of Fonteyn, led me to thinking who in the ballet world needs a real biography, in the tradition of Buckle's biography of Nijinsky, the recent biography of Kschessinska, and the like. I'd also add Suzanne Farrell and Tamara Karsavina's autobiographies to the list.

But who needs a real biography? I've got some ideas:

1. Ninette di Valois - fearsome, indomitable. Many of the people who knew her are still alive, from the lovers to the haters.

2. Anna Pavlova - no comprehensive biography of this legendary dancer, who also had an incredible life. Hard to believe.

3. Olga Spessivtseva - What a book this would make. The ill-fated affair with the KGB agent. The drama at the POB. The tragic mental breakdown.

4. Yuri Soloviev - another tragic life that I'd love to read about. Again, many of the people who danced with him are still alive, maybe they can shed some light on his incredible career, and why he put a bullet through his head.

5. Erik Bruhn - The golden boy of ballet, but one who apparently battled a lot of personal demons.

That's all I can think of for now. Anyone got any more ideas?

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Canbelto, I'm so glad you brought up this topic! Reading biographies of Jerome Robbins and Lincoln Kirstein has made me crave a biography of Nora Kaye in the worst way. In addition to being a major figure in dance during the 1940s with ties to multiple companies and the larger arts world, she was obviously an intelligent woman with a strong personality. Every little scrap of information makes me want more.

Others include Tanaquil LeClercq, Cynthia Gregory, and Suzanne Farrell. The existence of the Farrell autobiography helps, of course. And wasn't Gregory planning an autobiography at one time?

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Do wholeheartedly agree with everything Canbelto says - I would especially like to read about Dame Ninette.

But there is her memoir "Come dance with me", OK, published in 1957, but IMO the early days were the most interesting in British ballet history. It is in fact quite a good read.

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Others include Tanaquil LeClercq,. . .

Yes, please. Also, Diana Adams. And while I appreciate Gennady Smakov's bio of Barishnikov, I'd love another more deeply researched book on this restless artist.

Great topic, canbelto!

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The biographies of Jerome Robbins make me long for a biography about Tanny LeClercq. What a fascinating, strong-willed woman, who held a life-long spell over Robbins. I loved simply reading the letters between Tanny and Robbins.

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There is no real biography of George Balanchine -- none that is worthy of the subject. The standard one, by Bernard Taper, is a competent, journalistic job, but lacks psychological depth. The Richard Buckle one is gossipy, but patchy and incomplete. The Robert Gottlieb one is too short to cover much beyond the highlights. All the others I can think of -- by Moira Shearer, Terry Teachout, et. al. are seriously lacking in various ways. I would like to know how, for example, it was possible for Mr. B to have married and divorced five times, while remaining on good terms with all his exes?

From time to time, talk of "the Balanchine book by Arlene Croce" surfaces on Ballet Talk, but we already know that's not a biography but a study of the ballets -- if it exists at all.

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I would like to know how, for example, it was possible for Mr. B to have married and divorced five times, while remaining on good terms with all his exes?

I agree with you about the existing books on Balanchine. I thought Shearer had a good suggestion on that particular question, though.

John Gruen wrote a book on Bruhn many years ago, but it is seriously lacking and Bruhn definitely deserves a do-over.

Keith Money did well by Pavlova, I thought.

I agree, Nora Kaye would be an ideal subject, with considerable appeal to a general readership, too, I'd think.

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Oops didn't see the Money biography of Pavlova.

I agree about Petipa. Also, Mikhail Fokine.

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,,, and Lev Ivanov.....? And the Christensen brothers....

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re: Ivanov and the Christensen bros, there are two works from the 1990s and each is fairly thorough.

The life and ballets of Lev Ivanov : choreographer of The nutcracker and Swan lake / Roland John Wiley.

Oxford [England] : Clarendon Press ; New York : Oxford University Press, 1997

The Christensen brothers: an American dance epic, by Debra Hickenlooper Sowell (Harwood Academic Press, 1998)

p.s. Money's thorough Pavlova is sometimes on ebay and i suppose also on used book dealers' lists.

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I love her memoir, and I know there have been many essays and articles, but is there a straight-ahead biography of Karsavina somewhere? (RG -- you would know if anyone would)

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i know of no biographies of karsavina in english, or any other language for that matter.

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I second, third and forth a biography of Petipa.

There is a major biography of Erik Bruhn in the works.

I had always hoped for a biography of Diana Adams -- perhaps too difficult to do now. I'd definitely read one of Karsavina.

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Re: Spessistseva - she published an autobiography in 1966, "The Sleeping Ballerina," with substantial help from (and is often attributed to) Anton Dolin -- Dolin apparently was also instrumental in the filming of "The Sleeping Ballerina"

There is a reference to this on https://secure.bfi.org.uk/about/media/relea...5-diaghilev.pdf

Any reference on Google to "The Sleeping...." pulls up Dolin's name.

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Yes but the real drama behind Spessivtseva's story has never been told, I don't think. We've heard bits and pieces (an affair with a KGB officer, a bitter rivalry with Lifar at the Paris Opera Ballet, numerous clashes with ballerinas, and even speculation that she might have been a spy.

And I do wonder why there hasn't been a comprehensive biography of Balanchine even though there have been three(!!!) of Jerome Robbins. The people who worked with Balanchine are aging and now is probably the time to catch their stories.

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A major biography/memoir of Vladimir Vasiliev is desperately needed. I'm surprised nobody has chimed in on this. The fact that quite possibly the greatest male dancer of the century has no biography out there is a terrible shame.

It would also be nice if Maximova's memoir 'Madame Nyet' would be translated and printed in the US.

And I know this will never be, but a biography of Alla Shelest would be a neat read.

Tanaquil LeClerq -- absolutely!

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Pierina Legnani and Maria (Marie) Taglioni, as well as the other famous Romantic ballerinas. And how about August Bournonville?

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A major biography/memoir of Vladimir Vasiliev is desperately needed. I'm surprised nobody has chimed in on this. The fact that quite possibly the greatest male dancer of the century has no biography out there is a terrible shame.

Not only was he a great dancer, on whom major roles were choreographed, but he also lived through the transition from the Soviet Union to Russia and the Bolshoi post-Grigorovich, and it would be fascinating to get his take on the Bolshoi through the transitions and today.

Of course, it would not be complete without a ton of photos of Vasiliev and Maximova, and would be even more wonderful with a DVD slipped into a pocket in the book jacket ( :angel_not: )

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I had always hoped for a biography of Diana Adams -- perhaps too difficult to do now.

I had always hoped for a memoir. I think she would have produced a good one. Perhaps she was too private for such a project. If so, naturally one respects that, but it's a considerable loss all the same.

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How about Kenneth MacMillan, John Cranko, and Yuri Grigorivich? All were controversial but important choreographers.

In Grigorivich's case, his iron rule over the Bolshoi is also a goldmine waiting to be plundered. :angel_not:

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There is a Cranko bio ("Theatre in My Blood," by John Percival).

I believe someone is working on a MacMillan biography, but that is old news and I haven't heard an update.

There are also at least two biographies of Fokine. The problem with biographies is that they often disappear quickly. I remember being shocked when I learned that there had been a biography of Antoinette Sibley -- I'd missed it when it was published, and I follow such things rather carefully! :angel_not:

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I think you will find that a biography of Kenneth MacMillan already exists; it’s by Edward Thorpe. Agree about a biography of Grigorovich: that would be interesting, I’d like to read a biography of Plisetskaya too as her ghastly autobiography was very selective with facts.

There are a number of biographies of Russian dancers written in Russian that have never been translated into English and I would particularly like to read Alla Osipenko’s. Getting back to Nureyev, Roland Petit has published a memoir of him that should be translated as he knew Nureyev from day one in the west and was watching his career when Rudolf was at his prime.

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