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Balanchine biography by Jennifer Homans?


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#16 pherank

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Posted 05 May 2013 - 02:58 PM

Don't forget that "In Balanchine's Classroom" is still in the works and NEEDS OUR SUPPORT!!! It's by Connie Hochman and has been endorsed by many of Mr. B's colleagues. Check out Dance on Film. I'll try to post better links soon.


This is a Kickstarter campaign?

#17 ViolinConcerto

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Posted 05 May 2013 - 03:08 PM

Not sure.....

#18 Helene

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Posted 05 May 2013 - 03:22 PM

Seconding Bart's idea, I would love to see a dance bio that could include clips. Much as a composer's bio would include quotations from scores.

I just bought a knitting course in an online file that had imbedded videos demonstrating the techniques I had just read about. e-bios could very well do this, if the rights could be procured. Many physical books, particularly textbooks and training/prep manuals come with DVD's in a pocket in the back cover.

#19 ViolinConcerto

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Posted 05 May 2013 - 07:37 PM

here's the link: http://www.facebook....115525185145296

#20 dirac

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Posted 06 May 2013 - 09:42 AM

But it wasn't fair of her to imply that Balanchine immediately dumped Le Clercq after she contracted polio.


I read the article and in fairness to Homans I don't think she suggested that or intended to. As pherank notes she does telescope the facts somewhat misleadingly in the sentence or two we're talking about (as you say, Neryssa, the article is mostly about other things), so that it's easy to get the impression that the marriage failed much more rapidly than it did. And she does note that the union was in poorish shape before Le Clercq fell ill.

But since Homans devotes (I recall) one single sentence to explaining the end of their relationship, the reader is left with a bad impression about Balanchine.


If Homans had gone into it in more detail he probably would have looked worse. Le Clercq was hurt and humiliated, sometimes in public. (Not to mention the earlier on-and-off Diana Adams complications.) Not his finest hour.

#21 pherank

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Posted 06 May 2013 - 12:57 PM

If Homans had gone into it in more detail he probably would have looked worse. Le Clercq was hurt and humiliated, sometimes in public. (Not to mention the earlier on-and-off Diana Adams complications.) Not his finest hour.


I don't disagree with what you are saying - but Homans doesn't give any details - so I just thought that was one of the weak points in her article.

Balanchine did not approach marriage in the same way that the average North American did, or does. Hardly a shock to me that his marriages were a failure. I've been feeling that this self-destruct tendency was built in to his "love" relationships - Balanchine relied upon 'new love', change and transformation to fuel his artistic impulse. Does that make him a good Christian? Perhaps not. (Would he care?) But I don't find it very interesting to judge a person according to the surrounding national culture's moral standards. It's more interesting to try to figure out that individual's 'localized' value system, and learn where it all might have come from, and what kind of influence they had on others. Balanchine lived his life like, well, a theatre person. A Russian theatre person. So many of whom seem to have married multiple times and had multiple divorces. And, had lovers on the side. I always thought it was interesting that Balanchine did not think much of the 'free love'/youth movement period of the 1960s when it would seem that these things might appeal to him. But his values were, I think, quite an interesting and unusual mix. And that's one of the reasons why he's endlessly fascinating - so many different facets to his life and personality.

And, since the larger issue in this thread is how Homans treats the subject of Balanchine, or for that matter, the people associated with him, I have to wonder if the Vogue article is a good indication of how things are going to go. But we will of course have to just wait and see.

#22 canbelto

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Posted 06 May 2013 - 03:59 PM

What I find distasteful about Balanchine's treatment of LeClercq wasn't that they eventually grew apart and divorced, but that Balanchine, usually such a private man, chose to make his courtship and falling out with Farrell so public. While he was married he (without Farrell's permission) chose to "announce" his engagement in the press to Farrell, and then threw a hissy fit when things didn't work out as planned. The whole thing (including the quickie divorce from LeClercq) happened with Farrell and Balanchine talking to the presses in a way that must have been humiliating for LeClercq. It was just a very poor moment for a man who considered himself tactful and discreet.

#23 pherank

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Posted 06 May 2013 - 04:47 PM

What I find distasteful about Balanchine's treatment of LeClercq wasn't that they eventually grew apart and divorced, but that Balanchine, usually such a private man, chose to make his courtship and falling out with Farrell so public. While he was married he (without Farrell's permission) chose to "announce" his engagement in the press to Farrell, and then threw a hissy fit when things didn't work out as planned. The whole thing (including the quickie divorce from LeClercq) happened with Farrell and Balanchine talking to the presses in a way that must have been humiliating for LeClercq. It was just a very poor moment for a man who considered himself tactful and discreet.


One tends to become a different person where love is concerned. ;)
There's little doubt that love, or at least love gone bad, turned Balanchine into a worse person any number of times. But the news is filled with reports of people doing terrible things because their love relationship went wrong.

RE: Balanchine's treatment of Farrell and Mejia - it reminds me of the incident where Serge Lifar literally barred Balanchine and Danilova from entering the POB so as to maintain his power over the French dance establishment (he wasn't about to let Balanchine appear as an alternative). I'm pretty sure that was one of Balanchine's most humiliating and maddening moments, aside from his 'secret' dismissal from the Ballet Russes in favor of Massine. So some 30 years later, Balanchine in a fit of rage has both Farrell and Mejia banned, locked out, of the NYCB/SAB buildings. He did of course eventually come around with regards to working with Farrell, but he couldn't bare to deal with Mejia in person. But it was Balanchine who got Mejia and Tallchief together (in Chicago for the Chicago City Ballet). And given the way that men, and I suppose artists, tend to think, Balanchine must have felt that was a far more important gesture to Paul Mejia, than making 'nice'.

#24 dirac

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Posted 06 May 2013 - 05:08 PM

But it was Balanchine who got Mejia and Tallchief together (in Chicago for the Chicago City Ballet).


And got Mejia out of town. :)

Respectfully, pherank, it seems to me you're setting up a sort of "North American" strawman, standing over biographical subjects like a nanny with a wooden spoon, ready to pounce when they get out of line and indifferent to nuance. It is true I don't think artists have a Get Out of Comment Free card to brandish when it comes to personal conduct, but it's also true that private lives get awfully messy sometimes even when the intentions of everyone involved are good.

I'm not sure that the Vogue article gives us much guidance as to what Homans' approach will be, because Homans had other themes to develop here, but if she does decide to treat in detail of Balanchine's private life I'm sure she can be trusted to be honest and fair to all concerned even if I don't end up agreeing with her on this matter or other.

#25 Helene

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Posted 06 May 2013 - 05:58 PM

I didn't find Homans particularly credible in her last tome in the way she dismissed aesthetics that weren't to her taste, and I have no reason to believe any of her other work will be more balanced. I'll have to wait for the book to see if I'm wrong.

#26 pherank

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Posted 06 May 2013 - 06:03 PM

But it was Balanchine who got Mejia and Tallchief together (in Chicago for the Chicago City Ballet).


And got Mejia out of town. Posted Image


Well absolutely!!!

Respectfully, pherank, it seems to me you're setting up a sort of "North American" strawman, standing over biographical subjects like a nanny with a wooden spoon, ready to pounce when they get out of line and indifferent to nuance. It is true I don't think artists have a Get Out of Comment Free card to brandish when it comes to personal conduct, but it's also true that private lives get awfully messy sometimes even when the intentions of everyone involved are good.


This makes me sound rather clever and devious - thank you!

I'm not sure that the Vogue article gives us much guidance as to what Homans' approach will be, because Homans had other themes to develop here, but if she does decide to treat in detail of Balanchine's private life I'm sure she can be trusted to be honest and fair to all concerned even if I don't end up agreeing with her on this matter or other.


I think I mentioned earlier in the thread that I'm not a Homans 'hater', as some seem to be, so I am at least hopeful of a decent biography emerging from this. I'm glad there's someone in the world working on a ballet history book.

#27 Jayne

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Posted 06 May 2013 - 08:53 PM

Mr B's exes seem to have been able to move on their lives - most remarried, had children, made friends, and even worked with Mr. B after divorcing him. I can't read their minds, but I think they respected his creative force, and realized he wasn't cut out to be a long term devoted husband. LeClercq sounds like a hoot. Honestly of all of them, she'd probably make the best dinner guest.

#28 pherank

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Posted 06 May 2013 - 09:36 PM

LeClercq sounds like a hoot. Honestly of all of them, she'd probably make the best dinner guest.


I'm with you, Jayne. And Le Clercq was known to love dinner parties with friends. It's a shame we both missed out. ;)

#29 Ray

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Posted 07 May 2013 - 04:46 AM

Mr B's exes seem to have been able to move on their lives - most remarried, had children, made friends, and even worked with Mr. B after divorcing him. I can't read their minds, but I think they respected his creative force, and realized he wasn't cut out to be a long term devoted husband. [...]


How can I put this respectfully... From my personal point of view, Tallchief certainly did "move on" with her personal life, no doubt about it. But I think when she was in the studio, she more often than not replicated the scene of her own intense training with Balanchine. (Again, this is my own observation.) In the best cases dancers whom she favored (few and far between) were able to learn something from her first-hand knowledge of working with Balanchine. In most cases, though, her approach sometimes made no sense (i.e., most of the young bodies Tallchief had to mold were far more flexible and well-trained from the start than hers ever was); sometimes it was just cruel.

#30 Kathleen O'Connell

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Posted 07 May 2013 - 07:39 AM

I didn't find Homans particularly credible in her last tome in the way she dismissed aesthetics that weren't to her taste, and I have no reason to believe any of her other work will be more balanced. I'll have to wait for the book to see if I'm wrong.


Agreed. I'd have been less irritated by "Apollo's Angels" had it been written and billed as a straight-up attempt at dance criticism rather than as a comprehensive history of an art form. I grew weary of being told that this or that work wasn't really ballet because it didn't fall within the confines of Homans' tendentious definition of the form. She's too heavily invested in selling the idea that ballet is an exemplar of a particular kind of moral rigor to be able to deliver an objective history, much less a workable definition.

Anyway, when I read the opening paragraph in Pamela Erens' review of Janet Malcolm's Forty-One False Starts: Essays on Artists and Writers, I knew exactly what kind of book about Balanchine I really wanted:

Janet Malcolm understands that artists make things. This may seem a more than obvious truth, but it’s startling how often it is sidelined. A fair amount of writing about artists is premised on the idea that they are better or worse or more generous or brutish or attuned to the subtle vibrations of the universe than the rest of us. Malcolm doesn’t seem to think so, and it’s very refreshing. The profiles in her new collection Forty-One False Starts: Essays on Artists and Writers focus primarily on thing-making – the ideas behind it, the process of it, and the way those things are received by the public – as opposed to personality. Not that personality is missing from her essays; the reader gets a very strong sense of various artistic characters and their mannerisms. But there is little here of sleazy affairs, bad behavior toward family and colleagues, or other familiar fodder of artistic biography. (Often such biography suggests that the artist’s main career is being an asshole, while the paintings or photographs or books happen somehow in his free time.)

from "Making Things Is Hard Work: Janet Malcolm’s Forty-One False Starts," posted in The Millions on May 7, 2013


I know enough about Balanchine's life; what I really want to understand is his art.

ETA: I'm not by any means suggesting that we ought avert our eyes from the uglier episodes in Balanchine's life. We don't need a hagiography either.


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