Leigh Witchel

For further reading

14 posts in this topic

In no particular order, books from my library that talk about this subject. Please add more!

Marie Rambert - Quicksilver. Rambert's memoirs give an important and personal overview of British ballet and choreographers.

Franklin Stevens - Dance as Life. Stevens spent the 1974 season writing on ABT (interesting in itself because the end was marked by Baryshnikov's defection) but also includes memories of being a student and taking class at the old Met, including with Craske and Tudor.

Nancy Reynolds - Repertory in Review. Encyclopedic on what was done at NYCB, including works byu other than Balanchine or Robbins.

Balanchine's Festival of Ballets - gives you a sense of what was in common repertory at the time.

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How about Sono Osato's autobiography - is it called Distant Dances? Dance is a Contact Sport by Joseph Mazo on NYCB in the early 70's. There's also a great Tamara Geva autobiography, which talks about earlier days and Tallchief's autobiography is great on early NYCB as is one by Melissa Hayden (who wrote several books).

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For context, in Lyn Garafola and Eric Foner's "Dance for a City: Fifty Years of New York City Ballet," Thomas Bender's essay "The New York City Ballet and the Worlds of New York Intellect."

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A biography - 'Blue Blood' which details the whole sorry mess of the Harkness Ballet, written by Craig Unger.

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The recent book by Barbara Milberg Fisher.
Thanks for mentioning that, ViolinConcerto. It's In Balanchine's Company: a dancer's memoir (Wesleyan University Press, 2006). I got it from Amazon (click the icon on top of this page).

There's lots about dancing for Ballet Society and the NYCB from 1946 to 1958.

Fisher is a professor emeritus of English at City College (NYC). This means that, while you learn much about what it was like to dance for Balanchine in his early days forming a permanent company, there's also a larger overview.

You have to love a book that begins with: "I was never supposed to become a dancer. They had me slated for a Phys-Ed instructor (at least you get a pension) .... " (Well, it's on page 3 actually ...)

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Dance is a Contact Sport, Joseph Mazo -- daily life in the NYCB and labor issues, up close and personal.

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Thanks for the reminder about the Mazo book, Arizona Native. Amazon (click above) has a number of used copies, so I ordered one.

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Thanks for the reminder about the Mazo book, Arizona Native. Amazon (click above) has a number of used copies, so I ordered one.

With so many books to read on dancing, from historical perspectives and dancers' memoirs (I just finished "Winter Season" by Toni Bently) I need to go the library.

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When was he in the company? I am not familiar with his name?

Joseph Mazo? He wasn't. He spent a year (or was it a season?) in the early '70s observing the company as a journalist.

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When was he in the company? I am not familiar with his name?

Joseph Mazo? He wasn't. He spent a year (or was it a season?) in the early '70s observing the company as a journalist.

Thanks.

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Nowadays we might say that Mazo was "embedded" with the company. His book was published in 1974 and is especially valuable for its glimpses of NYCB corps members, among them the incomparable Delia Peters. Unfortunately, the book was written during the time Suzanne Farrell was away from NYCB.

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Unfortunately, the book was written during the time Suzanne Farrell was away from NYCB.

I think that is one of the book's strengths. The book gives a very broad view, and it written after Balanchine had regained interest in the possibilities of other dancers in the company. It's a very pithy, fun read, with little condescension. (Although I always have wondered about his description of Heather Watts. I can't imagine her ever being a girl who would have lived at a mall had she not become a dancer, but that could be an East Coast bias about California girls on his part, and people from New Jersey shouldn't throw stones about malls. :wink:) He seemed to enjoy and appreciate the dancers as people, and it interested in the working process.

One of the more controversial chapters was the one on Robbins. Some of Robbins' dancers, after the choreographer's death and around the publication of a few biographies a couple of years ago, have said that Mazo was too one-sided and harsh in his description. This might be the case, but it might also reflect maturation and the way memories change, especially since the dearth of choreographic genius they've worked with since, however irascible he might have been.

I see the same tendency in changing attitudes towards Nureyev's tenure as AD of Paris Opera Ballet.

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