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Bloomsbury Ballerina (Mackrell)

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I've just received my copy of Judith Mackrell's Bloomsbury Ballerina, a 428-page biography of the St. Petersburg-trained ballerina who made her career in the West and made waves by marrying the celebrated economist John M. Keynes.

This is THE BEST WRITTEN, most fascinating, most impossible-to-put-down ballet bio in years. I breazed through the first 100 pages or so last night -- across America, several times, on touring trains! -- and am now at the spot when she meets Charlie Chaplin. It's a nice rainy weekend here in Washington, so I have no doubt that I'll make it to the end by Sunday night.

Mackrell has done an amazing job in capturing the spirit and feistiness of this tiny dancer not only on stage but in her human relationships. Looking at the 'non-traditional' chubby face and body of Lopokova in old photos in the past, I always wondered how on earth she had become such a sensation. Now I know. What a character!

The book is well illustrated with many delectable, never-before-seen photos placed within the text, making the 'read' all the more enjoyable.

I urge anyone who cares one iota about the history of Russian ballet, the Diaghilev Era, and the beginnings of ballet in the USA and the UK to run to a bookstore in the UK or do as I did -- order it online from Dance Books or other stores with web-ordering capability.

BRAVA, Judith Mackrell!!!!

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Thanks, Natalia. It's not on Amazon (USA), so Dance Books (UK) it will be. I really appreciate the speed of their regular transAtlantic deliveries.

I always prefer ballet biographies which place the protagonist in the much larger cultural, social and even political world. With a subject like Lopukova, that larger world was large and far-reaching indeed! Looking forward to entering it for a while.

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Finished it last night. Wow - spectacular book. Spectacular life. This tiny lady was the Forrest Gump of the ballet world -- an outwardly-unlikely creature whose sheer guts and talent took her to meet most of the famous political and pop-culture stars of her day!

Who says that tall, thin, blonde 'swans' have more fun? Three cheers to the short, plump and mousy-brown-haired 'sparrow'!

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There's a good, long review of it by Alison Light in the London Review of Books of 18 Dec 08:


A trenchant excerpt:

"Despite Mackrell’s title, Lopokova certainly wasn’t a ‘Bloomsbury ballerina’, if that implies cliquishness and hauteur. Though hailed as one of a new breed of dancers who turned ballet into an art form for the avant-garde, she was also ‘Loppie’, a huge favourite with British audiences in the 1920s. Mackrell, the dance critic for the Guardian, restores her to her rightful place in the history of ballet, but equally engrossing, and more unusual, is the story of a woman who refused to be sacrificed on the altar of her art and was equally happy out of the limelight."

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