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Diana L

Who's biography next?

21 posts in this topic

A light and airy topic....

I just finished reading Allegra Kent's biography, she seemed like a real hoot.

Who's biography/story would you like to see next?

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The ones I want, it's unlikely anyone will do: Diana Adams, Beriosova (a good, thick one that talks about her roles as well as the more enticing personal side), an updated one on Violette Verdy (there's one now, but it was written in the late 1970s). I'd also love to read about the first generation of Sadler's Wells dancers. If a book on each one won't work, what about a book where dancers like Mary Honer, Pearl Argyle, Harold Turner each get a chapter? And how about Danilova (autobiographies aren't quite the same thing).

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Oooh, good question. After reading Valerie Panov's autobiography, I'd like to read a biography of Irina Kolpakova. I think that the difficulties of having been the "People's Ballerina" of the USSR might make a very interesting read (along with her great dance history, of course).

A Tanaquil LeClerc biography would be very interesting as well. Because her dancing career was cut short, I'd like to know more about how she dealt with spending the bulk of her life in a wheelchair.

Oooh, Jacques D'Amboise, Robert Helpmann, Ninette de Valois (is there already one about her?), Gelsey Kirkland (I agree, autobiographies notwithstanding), I could probably come up with another dozen names easily but these sprang quickly to mind.

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There are biographies of both Helpmann and DeValois. The one on Helpmann is not very good, IMO. I haven't read the DeValois, but would like to. It's by Kathrine Sorley Walker (correct spelling) who's a good writer, very thorough, and watched the Royal Ballet almost from the beginning.

The idea of English language biographies of Soviet dancers -- how enticing :) Ulanova, Maximova, Vassiliev, Dogulshin, A. Fadeyechev -- not a very original list, but it would do for starters. This is just my personal quirk, but I'm as interested in dancer biographies for what they tell us about a company or a period as about the individual.

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Adams, LeClerc, and Berosiva would make good subjects. I'd love a lengthy triple bio on the three "Baby Ballerinas" of de Basil's Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, but I'd also take just one on Tamara Toumanova. It would be great, from her dramatic birth on a train as her parents fled Russia, to her life as a baby ballerina, Balanchine muse, aging ballet diva, movie star, her life in California... On the other hand, Irina Baranova is still alive, so a bio on her might be easier to put together. Speaking of live subjects, how about a current one on Melissa Hayden.

Actually, I'd like a really good bio on Petipa. I only found one and it didn't look interesting.

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Hayden did her own book, didn't she? I think I saw it years ago. I've tried to find the 70s bio of Verdy, even posted on a back order site for out of print books, but no luck. I wonder if she had given a copy to the U. of Indiana library now that she's teaching in Bloomington.

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The Violette Verdy book is called Ballerina by Victoria Huckenpahler, and it came out in 1978....it is available in libraries, at least in research ones, if not for circulation.

I would suspect that the Indiana Univ. Fine Arts Library would have it, but doubtless it is available elsewhere as well (I did graduate work at IU and have to put in a plug for their excellent libaries occasionally ;) )

I'd like a well-researched new one on Fonteyn, Dowell, a reissue of Balanchine's Ballerinas, Danilova....the list goes ever onward.....

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I also just finished reading Allegra Kent's book. Yes, she was a hoot, but her story also highlights the difficulties of trying to have a dance career and a family life at the same time. It was amazing to me how she was able to leave dancing and come back so many times.

I would like to read a biography of Patricia McBride. I've always wanted to know more about her. Is there one?

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I think the Hayden book is from the 50s or 60s and geared more towards teens.

I've seen the Verdy book at some used book stores but it's always cost around $75 so I had to pass.

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I'd like to see biographies of Diana Adams and Nora Kaye. I read Allegra Kent's book and was vaguely depressed by it. It was a distinguished and unique career, to be sure, but I thought it more than unfortunate that she seemed to have a chronic need to cut off her nose to spite her face.

I haven't seen a book on McBride. I'm not sure if we ever will -- she had an important career, but it may have been too placid -- no hopping from company to company, no torrid affairs or stormy marriages. You kind of need that stuff.

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Sad to say but McBride is having a little dama now -- Jean Pierre is recoving from emergency bypass surgery. He had a heart attack at his Chautauqua summer program last Monday. Perhaps the tale of the two of them, a successful ballet marriage, might offer more fodder. But, as you say, not a lot of tension, bed-hopping or meanness. I think... I was surprised (perhaps revealing my ignorance) at how readily Tallchief trashed people in her bio.

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Although three weighty biographies have been published since his death (though only one worth reading), nothing comparable has been written about Fonteyn. So I would certainly put an erudite biography of her on the top of my wish list.

I too would like to see a book about Beriosova and anything about Plisetskaya would make fascinating reading. Plisetskaya published her autobiography a few years ago, but to the best of my knowledge it has never been translated into English.

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Meredith Daneman is writing a 'big' biography of Fonteyn, but I've lost track of when it's due to be published.

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I had the same reaction as samba38 when reading Tallchief's autobiography. I felt like I was back in high school with gossipy teens sniping at each other's looks and talents. It would be nice to read a biography of her to get a more balanced impression.

To some degree, I felt the same while reading Edward Villella's autobiography although it was more tolerable in that dept. A good bio of him might be nice also if one isn't already available.

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i would enjoy more bios/autobios about the unknown dancers. 'the unmaking of a dancer' is one of my favorite books that i have read. it's refreshing to hear the voice of a more common dancer.

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Apparently Sylvie Guillem is bringing out a biography of some sort. Personally I would like to see one on Dowell and one on Farukh Ruzimatov.

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One group of dancers that's never, to my knowledge, been documented in book are the ballet dancers of Nazi Germany. There's an old woman who lives nearby me. She's always taken an interest in my daughter's dancing and one day told me she was a ballet dancer in the (don't know the official name) time of Hitler. As a child, she was chosen in school (17 girls chosen out of thousands) to take ballet lessons, akin to the Soviet system. She continued dancing on into her 20's.

She has all kinds of guilty feelings resulting from having received special privileges as an Aryan dancer for Germany. But what she comes back to over and over again in conversation is how much she just wanted to dance! They danced through WW2 just as in the stories of the British dancers, they scrounged for food, rushed to air raid shelters and some were later systematically raped when Russian soldiers (but not the Americans - they were "respectful of the women" according to her) arrived. I.'s stories are hair-raising and when my daughter was younger, I'd have to shush her. But her stories continue to spill over. I once took I. to my daughter's studio which was then housed in an old Victorian building. She wept walking through the halls because she said "it smells the same".

Recently I've begun plying her with questions because I'm realizing that she has a story to tell that might possibly have not been previously told, at least not outside of Germany. It's a difficult story because of the political machine that created and sustained it. But these dancers were the same as dancers anywhere in their love and sacrifice and their desire to continue dancing no matter what happened around them. I'd love to know if those dancing years are documented anywhere.

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That would be an interesting study! After all, ballet in the Nazi Era had to be more than dancing Rhine-maidens and Die Fledermaus! Didn't Werner Egk compose a ballet score for "Abraxas" that was performed during that era? Egk was blacklisted after the war for cooperating with the Nazis, so the music is not well-known.

[ 08-05-2001: Message edited by: Mel Johnson ]

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Flight, could you tell us where you heard about this probable book by Guillem? Its the first I've heard of it and I'm very interested. She gives dozens of interviews but it seems to me the more you read them, the less you know about her! (As you, can guess, I'm a huge Guillem fan...)

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Re. dancing in Nazi Germany - being German myself, I have mixed feelings about this... Since it's very difficult to get anything "authentic" from this dark time without getting into extremely "brown" (=neo nazi) company, I believe there is not much available here in Germany. Best source may be people like "I." who now live elsewhere and have a need or want to tell about this time. I am sure their stories can be extremely fascinating, but I feel it is very important to get the context right. (I am sure you will agree with me on that point!)

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Sonja and vagansmom, it would be an interesting book. I've emailed an Austrian colleague who's done a lot of research in German ballet and I'll post if he gives me any information. I remember about ten years ago, he told me of a dance historians conference he attended in Germany where questions of dancing during the war (modern dance as well as ballet) arose, and at first there was an uncomfortable silence. But there were many Germans there, and eventually, people began to talk -- about dancing, not politics. Yes, it is a subject that would have to be handled with sensitivity, but it could be done. History that pretends something didn't exist isn't real history.

Thanks to both of you for raising the topic. If there's more discussion on it -- information about German dancers during the 1930s and '40s or the problems related to telling their stories -- could I suggest the next person start a new thread? (If I learn anything from my colleague, I'll post that on a new thread.)

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