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Jennifer Homans' planned biography of Balanchine

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I was just reading the newly released list of grants just awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and see that Homans has been awarded $50,400 in support of the biography she is writing of Balanchine. Anyone know anything about her project? I have her compendious book on the history of ballet. Another question: Are there any other respected biographies of Balanchine written in the last 20 years or so?

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I have mixed feelings about Homans and a Balanchine bio, based on her tome.

 

Two short bios of Balanchine appeared a dozen years ago, one by Robert Gottlieb and one by Terry Teachout.

 

Teachout: All in the Dances: A Brief Life of George Balanchine (2004)

Gottlieb: GEORGE BALANCHINE The Ballet Maker (2004)

 

A Kirkus review of the Gottlieb, with references to the Teachout:

https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/robert-gottlieb/george-balanchine-2/

 

 

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Thanks, Helene, for the referrals. Gottlieb's book is in paperback, so I will order it. Thank you for locating the Kirkus review. I recently read his memoir, Avid Reader, which I had hoped would be more about book publishing (where I spent my career) and less about gossip--a bit of a letdown for me. The other book you cite is out of print but a few public libraries in CT have it so I'll borrow it. 

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I, too, worked in publishing, and one of the things I loved about the book was reading about how much he loved his work.  But I think like other people who are totally engrossed in what they do -- very much like dancers -- it's not instinctive to describe the nuts and bolts.  For him, it sounded like the collaboration was important, and that's not easily dissected, especially when people just fit together.

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4 hours ago, canbelto said:

That planned biography by Arlene Croce that never came to fruition.

 

Was the Croce definitely going to be a bio? I was hoping (if it ever came out) that it was going to be more critical than biographical. I didn't realize that the latter had been specified in the initial info that circulated.

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3 hours ago, doug said:

Don't discount the Croce. It may yet happen.

 

Respectfully, is there anything you can share that would explain why we shouldn't discount it? That book's been dangled in front of us a long time and not a peep.

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3 minutes ago, dirac said:

 

Respectfully, is there anything you can share that would explain why we shouldn't discount it? That book's been dangled in front of us a long time and not a peep.

 

I may be remembering the details wrong, but at one point the supposed publication date seemed so close that –– logistically –– one would have imagined that at least a good chunk of it had to be already written. That's my only reason for holding out hope. I don't have the sense that it was only a concept.

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Croce's been working on a critical study of what she deems to be Balanchine's "key" works, i forget the precise number. i was shown a list at one point but don't have it to hand. As w/ all critical studies, it's safe to assume that biographical information is part of the plan. i don't have any hard evidence of a specific release date, but, like Doug, i'm not discounting the book's appearance, despite the time that has elapsed.

 

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Elizabeth Kattner-Ulrich's dissertation, The Early Life and Works of George Balanchine (published 2008), was available on Amazon, but now it's too expensive to contemplate (so look for the dissertation PDF online). That was, for me, an interesting read. I've been wondering if Elizabeth Kendall's Balanchine & the Lost Muse wasn't partly/mostly based on Kattner-Ulrich's research.

Edited by pherank

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20 hours ago, nanushka said:

 

I may be remembering the details wrong, but at one point the supposed publication date seemed so close that –– logistically –– one would have imagined that at least a good chunk of it had to be already written. That's my only reason for holding out hope. I don't have the sense that it was only a concept.

 

That's what I remember as well. However, I'm not in the industry and don't know how much some publication dates are informed by optimism. One of the existing threads on the topic is here.  I'm sure something's written, or at least the publisher(s) must have been shown something, but who knows.

 

Thanks for the link, pherank.   

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4 hours ago, doug said:

 

Thanks Doug!

I should mention that Kattner-Ulrich's dissertation is in English, although submitted to Freie Universität Berlin. And it is of course written in the particular academic style/format required of a dissertation, but it's "chock full" of great information throughout.

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On 8/2/2017 at 10:58 AM, doug said:

Don't discount the Croce. It may yet happen.

 

Fingers crossed

 

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I'm surprised a publisher hasn't extracted all of the City Ballet reviews from Croce's four published compilations of criticism and repackaged them as an omnibus edition. (You could even edit out a lot of the non-Balanchine (i.e. Robbins, Martins) portions of the reviews to create a streamlined volume.)

 

Croce's writings on City Ballet in general and Balanchine in particular represent the major part of her legacy. Nothing else she wrote about was ever as of high a quality as her Balanchine/City Ballet writings (although her Merce Cunningham and Paul Taylor writings are very good in a positive way and her Martha Graham writings are very good in a negative way.)

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1 hour ago, miliosr said:

I'm surprised a publisher hasn't extracted all of the City Ballet reviews from Croce's four published compilations of criticism and repackaged them as an omnibus edition. (You could even edit out a lot of the non-Balanchine (i.e. Robbins, Martins) portions of the reviews to create a streamlined volume.)

 

Croce's writings on City Ballet in general and Balanchine in particular represent the major part of her legacy. Nothing else she wrote about was ever as of high a quality as her Balanchine/City Ballet writings (although her Merce Cunningham and Paul Taylor writings are very good in a positive way and her Martha Graham writings are very good in a negative way.)

 

I'd disagree with that. I think that her writings on Fred and Ginger are a major part of her legacy and for better or worse so was her extreme cultural and political conservatism that got her into the culture wars of the mid-90's. I think she's probably better known for her essays against multiculturalism and "victim art" than anything else.

Edited by canbelto

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Croce was worth reading on any form of dance she chose to address. It is true that critics are generally inspired to their best by the best, although often as not readers tend to remember the colorful slaggings.

 

It's certainly time for a new full-length bio of Balanchine. I'm not thrilled that it's Homans, but pauperes non possunt electores esse and maybe she'll surprise me.

 

Thanks for starting the topic, CTballetfan!

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20 hours ago, miliosr said:

I'm surprised a publisher hasn't extracted all of the City Ballet reviews from Croce's four published compilations of criticism and repackaged them as an omnibus edition. (You could even edit out a lot of the non-Balanchine (i.e. Robbins, Martins) portions of the reviews to create a streamlined volume.)

 

Croce's writings on City Ballet in general and Balanchine in particular represent the major part of her legacy. Nothing else she wrote about was ever as of high a quality as her Balanchine/City Ballet writings (although her Merce Cunningham and Paul Taylor writings are very good in a positive way and her Martha Graham writings are very good in a negative way.)

 

I don't think she's interested in that kind of extract, but there is Writing in the Dark, which is the New Yorker criticism.

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19 hours ago, canbelto said:

 

I'd disagree with that. I think that her writings on Fred and Ginger are a major part of her legacy and for better or worse so was her extreme cultural and political conservatism that got her into the culture wars of the mid-90's. I think she's probably better known for her essays against multiculturalism and "victim art" than anything else.

 

Agreed -- between her and John Muller, the Astaire/Rogers work was framed as the significant material it was.

 

And for all that I think her response to Bill T. Jones' "Still/Here" was dead wrong, it did spark an incredible discussion about what art is and what it can do.  I still think about some of the responses in Maurice Berger's "The Crisis of Criticism."

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15 hours ago, dirac said:

It's certainly time for a new full-length bio of Balanchine. I'm not thrilled that it's Homans, but pauperes non possunt electores esse and maybe she'll surprise me.

 

 

What I'm waiting for is a biography of Balanchine, or a critical examination of his work that is framed by someone who did not work with him directly or is an artistic descendant of the House of Balanchine.  (That is to say, someone who does not have significant insider information.)  Soon we will be looking at the repertory itself as the artifact, much in the way that we know Petipa and Fokine through their works rather than through their lives.  I'm curious to know how that will develop.

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I doubt that Balanchine will be a figure as remote as Petipa, or even Fokine, any time soon, although I see what you mean. 

 

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I think Arlene Croce's criticisms of Balanchine are her BEST work however (along with her work on Fred and Ginger). I think critics are always at their best at writing about things they genuinely love, not things they genuinely hate. So as provocative as some of her criticisms of the Royal Ballet or Alvin Ailey or multicultural dance festivals were they don't have the sweep and scope and passion of her work on Balanchine.

 

She's up there with Edwin Denby for me in terms of dance criticism. Denby being another critic who could be incredibly harsh on things he disliked.

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On ‎8‎/‎6‎/‎2017 at 2:07 AM, dirac said:

Croce was worth reading on any form of dance she chose to address.

Yes and no. She was always "a good read" but that doesn't mean all of her pronouncements were equally valid. She could be incredibly obtuse, stubborn and/or wrongheaded in how she dismissed certain people and companies too easily and kept promoting certain people and companies long after it should have been apparent that they weren't going to be the next big thing. She could be a great writer but she wasn't necessarily a great reporter or prognosticator.

 

9 hours ago, canbelto said:

I think Arlene Croce's criticisms of Balanchine are her BEST work however

You can really see it if you compare her reviews of City Ballet to those of ABT; both in terms of volume and emotional intensity. She could write tellingly about someone like Makarova but, for the most part, ABT just didn't move her the way City Ballet did. (On the other hand, that she didn't love ABT with the intensity with which she loved City Ballet meant we never got the great swings in opinion with ABT that we got with City Ballet -- see Martins, Peter.)

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