This has been posted before in daily links by dirac but I thought I'd add it here too.
Laura Jacobs in the London Review of Books makes a strong case supporting Kendall's thesis in Balanchine & the Lost Muse. She says that "Kendall’s portrait of Balanchine’s first twenty years will now be the standard reference for this period"– "free of [Taper's] mythical guidance (‘soft focus’ might be a better way to put it) and revised."
Most of the review is behind a pay wall but worth getting an issue (or a subscription) or looking at in the library.
Some of the section on Serenade:
In the New York Review, setting the tone, the historian Jennifer Homans wrote that ‘with scant supporting evidence’ Kendall is determined to give Ivanova ‘pride of place in Balanchine’s psyche and art’. I would argue that Kendall has given Ivanova, finally, her rightful place in Balanchine’s psyche and art, and that she has done so on compelling evidence . . .
We know that Serenade owes a great deal to the moonlit groupings in Fokine’s Les Sylphides, a seminal work that Balanchine greatly admired. Kendall reminds us that Serenade is musically connected to a lost Fokine ballet, Eros, which was choreographed to the same score, Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings. Lida was in Eros and was reportedly unforgettable . . .
Ivanova wasn’t a muse to Balanchine in the way we understand his muses today – a ballerina he fell in love with and either married or wanted to marry. Some reviewers have missed this point but Kendall is clear: ‘Lidochka wasn’t anybody’s personal muse. She’d invented herself. Even so young, she was muse to her age … she’d divined new ways to move, new ways to use ballet. Georges absorbed her discoveries.’
In fact, this flapper-Columbine, this brilliant girl, seizing the day and tempting fate, presented Balanchine with yet another template of female autonomy, one quite different from his mother’s aloof beauty. This persona, to borrow a term from Martha Graham (who borrowed it from Henrik Ibsen), is ‘doom eager’. As Graham said, ‘You are doom eager for destiny no matter what it costs you.’
In Balanchine’s ballets this is often the girl or woman who waltzes. We first see her in Serenade, then spectral in La Sonnambula (1946), then ecstatically avid in La Valse (1951) ... She is self-dramatising in 1960’s Liebeslieder Walzer (the Violette Verdy role) ...