ViolinConcerto

New Book about an NYCB corps member-- and Jerome Robbins

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A review in "Broadway World" about "The Cage" by Barbara Bocher, who danced with the Company in it's early days, 1949 to 1954. Though she had a good relationship with Mr. B., and progressed in her career, she felt she was badly mistreated by Mr. Robbins. She was the youngest member of the Company at 14.

http://books.broadwayworld.com/article/BWWBookReviews-THE-CAGE-Dancing-for-Jerome-Robbins-and-George-Balanchine-By-Barbara-Bocher-and-Adam-Darius-20121215

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Thanks, ViolinConcerto. I downloaded the Kindle sample, much of which is about the making of The Cage, and Robbins' brutal, "army camp behavior" which "skirted the borders of torture," and what a shock the violent sexual nature of the ballet was to a 14-year old girl in 1950.

Robbins' ugly temper is well known, and it's easy to understand why Bocher was traumatized. But it's a shame she and her co-author write in a melodramatic and emotionally overblown manner, in clichéd and purple prose full of grammatical errors and words they don't understand the meaning of. I won't be buying the book.

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I sampled the book via Amazon's text search function and while some of the prose is certainly empurpled it looks on that basis to be worth the time of anyone interested in the subject. Reasonably priced, as well. I've placed my order and will report back in this space.

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Thanks, ViolinConcerto. I downloaded the Kindle sample, much of which is about the making of The Cage, and Robbins' brutal, "army camp behavior" which "skirted the borders of torture," and what a shock the violent sexual nature of the ballet was to a 14-year old girl in 1950.

Robbins' ugly temper is well known, and it's easy to understand why Bocher was traumatized. But it's a shame she and her co-author write in a melodramatic and emotionally overblown manner, in clichéd and purple prose full of grammatical errors and words they don't understand the meaning of. I won't be buying the book.

I agree about the writing, but in a way, it's appropriate as it conveys what she must have felt like. She seems to have come from a very sheltered background. Her mother (I think) was with her as a ballet mom should be with such "a very young ballerina."

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I agree about the writing, but in a way, it's appropriate as it conveys what she must have felt like.

That’s a good point. Then again, I’m not sure why at age 77 she feels the needs to quote the First Amendment - or rather the First Amendment as originally proposed - in defense of having written the book. Anyhow, I look forward to what you and dirac think when you've finished it.

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Oh Gosh, I'm so behind..... don't let me keep you waiting. I did read the bits that Amazon left around for us as temptations....that's why I made that judgement of her having come from a sheltered background.

Enjoy !

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I just finished reading this book. It is very poorly written. I don't know anything about the process of publishing a book, but shouldn't an editor correct grammar and sentences that make no sense?

Jerome Robbins is well known for abusing dancers, and we have all heard stories of his out of control temper. I was still shocked by Ms Bocher's experience. She was only fourteen when she joined NYCB, and became a target of his sadistic attacks.

While I can understand the author's motivation for writing this book, it makes me sad to see one more negative book about life in the professional dance world.

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I just finished reading this book. It is very poorly written. I don't know anything about the process of publishing a book, but shouldn't an editor correct grammar and sentences that make no sense?

It appears that it was a self-publishing venture: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

https://www.createspace.com/pub/l/google_diy2.do?ref=1159204&utm_id=6029

You can find out the publisher under "publisher details" on the Amazon page:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Cage-Dancing-Balanchine-1949-1954/dp/1478246588/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1356206275&sr=8-1&keywords=the+cage+bocher

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I finished the book over the holidays. It was poorly written, I agree - or rather, it was not well edited - if at all. I agree that Bocher has a right to be angry about the horrible way Robbins treated her but she is also bitter that Balanchine did not ask Robbins to change his behavior. In the final part of her book Bocher criticizes Balanchine's ballets as being soulless which I thought was unfair. She also writes some questionable things about how Balanchine treated Maria Tallchief when he was obsessed with Tanaquil Le Clercq. I don't know, I wasn't there but did Balanchine humiliate Tallchief during the early-mid-1950s? Did he not continue to choreograph works for her after their annulment (such as Scotch Symphony?). A strange book. Bocher obviously has regrets about not continuing her career and seems to blame Robbins and Balanchine for not allowing her to fulfill her potential as a dancer.

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Well, from everything I know about Balanchine his sense of propriety was overwhelming and one of the things that he allowed Robbins to do was to pick the dancers Robbins wanted, and to give Robbins free rein in terms of rehearsal space and time.

Some dancers claimed to like Robbins' extremely, uh, demanding approach to creating works. They said it brought out the best in them. Others obviously couldn't take it, and there's a story of a cast hating him so much they let him fall into the orchestra pit once by accident without warning him he was about to fall over.

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Some dancers claimed to like Robbins' extremely, uh, demanding approach to creating works. They said it brought out the best in them. Others obviously couldn't take it, and there's a story of a cast hating him so much they let him fall into the orchestra pit once by accident without warning him he was about to fall over.

Are you saying that some dancers liked his screaming and expletives? Bocher is referring to verbal abuse and harassment. I think Balanchine more than proved that dancers could be challenged with gentle, calm instruction.

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Are you saying that some dancers liked his screaming and expletives? Bocher is referring to verbal abuse and harassment. I think Balanchine more than proved that dancers could be challenged with gentle, calm instruction.


I'm not saying they liked it. But there were many dancers who said that they thought it was part of his creative process, to be extremely critical and brutal in order to "break" a dancer and then mold him. Some dancers could handle working with him, others couldn't.

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My copy came today, and I haven't really started reading, but after a quick flip through the text does feel kind of ... sticky.

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I think it is a pathetic and archaic notion to think that a choreographer or artist in general must be a screaming maniac in order to choreograph, paint or compose. Robbins abused his authority; it is as simple as that. It should not have mattered that Bocher was young, sheltered or not able to tough it out. I think it's sad that many people still think Robbins' behavior was acceptable or justifiable in the name of his art.

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I think enough people who know about Robbins also know enough about Balanchine to realize that you don't need to be a screaming maniac to be a great artist.

The main people who've thought that Robbins' behavior was acceptable or justifiable -- i.e. worth the trade-off -- are the dancers who went on record to say so.

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Well, from everything I know about Balanchine his sense of propriety was overwhelming and one of the things that he allowed Robbins to do was to pick the dancers Robbins wanted, and to give Robbins free rein in terms of rehearsal space and time.

Some dancers claimed to like Robbins' extremely, uh, demanding approach to creating works. They said it brought out the best in them. Others obviously couldn't take it, and there's a story of a cast hating him so much they let him fall into the orchestra pit once by accident without warning him he was about to fall over.

That story is about a Bway show in rehearsal, and I believe it was "Fiddler on The Roof," which was years and years after his start with NYCB. I've heard it many times, including from people who were there.

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Well, from everything I know about Balanchine his sense of propriety was overwhelming and one of the things that he allowed Robbins to do was to pick the dancers Robbins wanted, and to give Robbins free rein in terms of rehearsal space and time.

Some dancers claimed to like Robbins' extremely, uh, demanding approach to creating works. They said it brought out the best in them. Others obviously couldn't take it, and there's a story of a cast hating him so much they let him fall into the orchestra pit once by accident without warning him he was about to fall over.

That story is about a Bway show in rehearsal, and I believe it was "Fiddler on The Roof," which was years and years after his start with NYCB. I've heard it many times, including from people who were there.

It was "Billion Dollar Baby" in 1945.

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Well, from everything I know about Balanchine his sense of propriety was overwhelming and one of the things that he allowed Robbins to do was to pick the dancers Robbins wanted, and to give Robbins free rein in terms of rehearsal space and time.

Some dancers claimed to like Robbins' extremely, uh, demanding approach to creating works. They said it brought out the best in them. Others obviously couldn't take it, and there's a story of a cast hating him so much they let him fall into the orchestra pit once by accident without warning him he was about to fall over.

That story is about a Bway show in rehearsal, and I believe it was "Fiddler on The Roof," which was years and years after his start with NYCB. I've heard it many times, including from people who were there.

It was "Billion Dollar Baby" in 1945.

I emailed the daughter of the stage manager who was there at the time and she said "It was West Side Story."

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I emailed the daughter of the stage manager who was there at the time and she said "It was West Side Story."

The Billion Dollar Baby info is in Amanda Vaill's recent bio of Robbins., p. 124

"the story of his fall became a legend that would follow him for the rest of his career, attached to whatever show (or ballet) the teller had some connection with"

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The Billion Dollar Baby info is in Amanda Vaill's recent bio of Robbins., p. 124

"the story of his fall became a legend that would follow him for the rest of his career, attached to whatever show (or ballet) the teller had some connection with"

Just goes to show how much animosity people carried with them about his treatment... Amanda Vail is to be trusted!

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I remember that period so well--she left ballet in 1954 and I left in 1951---for the same reason--marriage. when I read the excerpts of the book on Amazon I couldn't wait to get my copy. She writes of people I knew at the time, particularly Brendan Fitzgerald (born O'Flanagan). She describes him so well--it is the Brendan I knew. I am only a quarter through the book and it keeps calling me to read on....I have recently been engrossed with the new biography of JPKennedy but I have put it aside.....I wishj I could contact her....

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atm711: Bocher lives in Santa Barbara, doesn't she? I think you could find her address from the NYC Ballet Alumni office - if she has been updating her address with them. I love reading about this period of the New York City Ballet. Bocher finally reveals how she escaped from the locked bathroom during that infamous performance of Symphony in C during one of the NYC Ballet tours in Europe.

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For those with Kindles (any generation) and amazon Prime memberships, you can "borrow" the book on your Kindle for free from the Kindle Lending library. (From your Kindle, go to "Kindle Store" from the main menu, and under "Browse," select "See all categories." From the new menu, slect "Kindle Owners' Lending Library.")

If you search on "The Cage," you'll get several hundred options. A search on "dancing for jerome robbins" should bring you right to the book.

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I remember that period so well--she left ballet in 1954 and I left in 1951---for the same reason--marriage. when I read the excerpts of the book on Amazon I couldn't wait to get my copy. She writes of people I knew at the time, particularly Brendan Fitzgerald (born O'Flanagan). She describes him so well--it is the Brendan I knew. I am only a quarter through the book and it keeps calling me to read on....I have recently been engrossed with the new biography of JPKennedy but I have put it aside.....I wishj I could contact her....

Thanks, atm711, this is good to know. (I'm reading the new bio as well - haven't gotten to the book under discussion yet.)

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If anyone has a way to contact Ms. Bocher but doesn't want to publish the info widely and doesn't have PM access, if you email us at the "Contact Us" link at the top of the page, we'd be happy to forward your contact info to atm711. (Only three of us have access to the mail received at "Contact Us.")

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