Favorite books by dancers
Posted 12 May 2002 - 01:18 PM
Paul's list of Gelsey's real demons is right on, I think. Many dancers have some of the same, of course, to varying degrees, but her striving for perfectionism, her insistence on perfectionism, and the very fine microscope with which she viewed her own dancing must have been intolerable. I think she was, or could have been, a very great artist. The saddest thing about her very sad appearance on LA Law more than a decade ago was that you could still see the genius in the bits of dancing they showed, and that she wanted to be seen dancing Giselle -- off pointe, but Giselle, nonetheless, a magnificent Giselle. It's one of the saddest stories in dance history, I think, right up there with Emma Livry's.
Posted 13 May 2002 - 04:53 AM
Dance is a Contact Sport by Joseph Mazo (out of print)
At the Ballet: Onstage, Backstage by Sandra Lee and Thomas Hunt (gorgeous photos of SFB)
Suki Shorer on Balanchine Technique
Posted 13 May 2002 - 05:00 AM
As far as redemption goes, for me, Gelsey's second book: 'The Shape of Love', is inspiring.
I am with Alexandra when it comes to 'Dancing in Petersburg' by Kschessinska.
Imagine being in the company of the Tsar. That level of luxury and sophistication is unfathomable to me. Also there is the power that she wielded.
Then to have to flee to another country and start at zero (okay, she still had her house on the French Riviera). One had to be brave to survive the revolution and start over.
I doubt I read this in her book, but I remember hearing that at the end of her days, she collected payment for class in a cigar box.
Posted 13 May 2002 - 10:51 AM
I think what Paul said about drugs being a release for Kirkland is right on the money. I felt torn reading her book -- she's intellectually curious, independent, talented, all wonderful qualities mitigated by those terrible insecurities. Not to mention lousy copy editing -- I will forever cherish the reference to "fulsome breasts." (I'd add that "The Shape of Love," although very different in tone and content, shows a Kirkland very similar in key respects to the one on display in the first volume.)
Also, Paul, not all the ballerinas were that discreet -- check out Melissa Hayden. I wish she'd write a book!
Posted 13 May 2002 - 02:25 PM
Posted 13 May 2002 - 05:14 PM
But I cannot think of another dancer who chose to air her dirty linen so gaudily as Gelsey. I was toiling in the book industry (in a cubicle adjacent to FF) when Dancing on My Grace came out, and I do remember tales of the publication party: her publisher invited all her former colleagues at NYCB and ABT, plus other dance world luminaries, and they all refused. The invitation to Peter Martins, whom she portrayed as a callous, two-faced satyr, has to set a high mark in chutzpah.
As for Chris d'Amboise's book, I knew the agent who placed it, and he was very pleased that the editor who took it under her wing was the late Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Disregarding modern publishing practices, Mrs. O. actually read manuscripts and gave authors extensive editorial notes. And the (at the time) quite young Mr. d'Amboise greatly benefited from her guidance. It's certainly an unusually eloquent, vivid account of a dancer coming of age.
Posted 13 May 2002 - 05:52 PM
Posted 13 May 2002 - 09:12 PM
Originally posted by glebb
'Dancing on my Grave' is a turn off and I wonder if it is the most widely read dancer bio for the general public.
I wouldn't be surprised in the least if it was the most widely read dancer's autobiography in the mainstream. It has all the ingredients for a bestseller, and it reaffirms most people's general distaste for everything ballet. It certainly seems to be the sole source for all the anti-ballet and anti-Balanchine venom I read and hear all over the place. If I had a dollar for every time someone used the infamous "I want to see bones" quote as justification for why Balanchine is the Great Satan, I'd be able to sit in the orchestra every day for the rest of my life.
I much prefer Suzanne Farrell's autobiography. She acknowledges Balanchine's shortcomings without constructing him as a demon and herself as a saint. It's interesting, too, to see her write so positively--and honestly-- about the same people who were making Gelsey so durned miserable, such as Diana Adams, Gloria Govrin, Arthur Mitchell, Mme. Doubrovska, Peter Martins, and, of course, Mr. B. Furthermore, as her book was published after Kirkland's, she makes it a point to refute, directly and indirectly, any conclusions one might draw about ballet and Balanchine from reading Dancing On My Grave.
Posted 14 May 2002 - 05:56 AM
Posted 14 May 2002 - 07:08 AM
Posted 14 May 2002 - 07:43 AM
Posted 14 May 2002 - 08:29 AM
Posted 14 May 2002 - 08:39 AM
Originally posted by BalletNut
I wouldn't be surprised in the least if it was the most widely read dancer's autobiography in the mainstream. It has all the ingredients for a bestseller, and it reaffirms most people's general distaste for everything ballet. It certainly seems to be the sole source for all the anti-ballet and anti-Balanchine venom I read and hear all over the place.
You're right on -- I speak from experience When I was pitching my manuscript to publishers, they all cited Kirkland's biography as the hit. They wanted dirt, er, "intimate revelations." I also think there's something -- whether in American readers, or just editors -- that loves the "Ballet done me wrong!" story. After "Dancing on My Grave" I think the most popular one is the Edward Stierle book, which was sold as "Just because he didn't have the perfect body no ballet company wanted him." Ballet is an alien art form, still. It is off-putting to many in this country, and they prefer to reinforce the stereotypes and ideas they already have.
Back to books by dancers, what about Plisetskaya's Memoirs -- I have it but haven't had a chance to read it yet. Everything I've heard is, flawed, but fascinating.
Posted 14 May 2002 - 10:04 AM
This wasn't true in the 70s, during the "dance boom." I think people sensed then that ballet was a vital art form and that this was where it was all happening, as we said back then. Nowadays, people (quite rightly) perceive the opposite. Hence the distaste and derision.
Originally posted by at:
Ballet is an alien art form, still. It is off-putting to many in this country, and they prefer to reinforce the stereotypes and ideas they already have.
The "ballet is unfair because it discriminates against those of us without perfect bodies" feeling is always going to be there, because it's true. It only becomes an evil in the minds of nonballetomanes when there seems to be no reason to dance, or watch, ballet.
Posted 14 May 2002 - 10:19 AM
Exceptions, as always, of course, the major one for many blessed years was Robert Gottlieb at Knopf. Check any of our threads on great or favorite books and one notices how many were Knopf books.
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