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Who needs a biography?A real one


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#1 canbelto

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Posted 08 October 2007 - 12:37 PM

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?

#2 Ginny Kanter

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Posted 08 October 2007 - 01:53 PM

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?

#3 Pamela Moberg

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Posted 08 October 2007 - 02:12 PM

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.

#4 kfw

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Posted 08 October 2007 - 04:43 PM

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!

#5 canbelto

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Posted 08 October 2007 - 05:20 PM

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.

#6 Farrell Fan

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Posted 08 October 2007 - 05:48 PM

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.

#7 dirac

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Posted 08 October 2007 - 06:11 PM

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.

#8 Hans

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Posted 08 October 2007 - 06:14 PM

Marius Petipa!

#9 canbelto

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Posted 08 October 2007 - 07:02 PM

Oops didn't see the Money biography of Pavlova.
I agree about Petipa. Also, Mikhail Fokine.

#10 Amy Reusch

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Posted 08 October 2007 - 07:29 PM

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

#11 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 08 October 2007 - 09:17 PM

I'm pretty certain there's a book on Bruhn in the works.

#12 rg

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Posted 09 October 2007 - 04:52 AM

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.

#13 sandik

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Posted 09 October 2007 - 09:13 AM

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)

#14 rg

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Posted 09 October 2007 - 09:42 AM

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

#15 Alexandra

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Posted 09 October 2007 - 10:56 AM

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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