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Broadway, Balanchine & Beyond

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I'm catching up on my Sunday NY Times and noticed a review (by Helen Shaw) of a new memoir by Bettijane Sills (former NYCB soloist, now a professor at SUNY-Purchase)  with Elizabeth McPherson in the Book Review.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/31/books/review/balanchine-cunningham-dance.html

From the review:

"The moment the polite little book tips accidentally into nightmare comes halfway through. Having already been reprimanded for weight gain, Sills is called into Balanchine’s office, and he takes her hand, squeezing her fingers. 'When I asked what he was doing,' she writes, 'he reminded me of the story of Hansel and Gretel. Did I remember the old witch who in order to tell whether the children were plump enough for eating, would squeeze their fingers every day?' Get out, I thought. But she danced for that witch for 10 more years."

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Thank you for posting, FPF. My first reaction was that maybe the writer of the review should switch to decaf. The issue of weight is a fraught one for women and not only in ballet, but I can actually think of worse ways to remind someone that she needs to keep the extra pounds off. Judging by the accompanying photo, Ms. Sills had a lovely figure with delightful curves but I can also see how in a weight-gaining state of health it might have become a mite too curvy.

Of course, I haven't read Sills' book and that might change my mind. I look forward to reading it in any case. Ms. Preger-Simon's book looks interesting as well.

I do like that photo with "the witch" -- or warlock, I suppose  -- Balanchine on one knee before Sills, demonstrating.

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Both books are quick reads but worthwhile. Sills’ isn’t the most informative about working with Balanchine but she was only with the company a short while. It was troubling to read of her struggles with her weight (never more than 5-10 pounds more than what she and Balanchine considered ‘ideal’) and his approach wasn’t perfect, but she admits to an eating disorder—and describes her habits in some detail—and she maintained a friendly relationship with Balanchine until the end of his life and considers herself privileged to teach his ballets. 

The University of Florida has published quite a few books about dance, including Allegra Kent’s memoir and Nancy Goldner’s excellent books on Balanchine works. Let’s hope it continues. 

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Thank you, Peg, that's informative. 

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The University of Florida has published quite a few books about dance, including Allegra Kent’s memoir and Nancy Goldner’s excellent books on Balanchine works. Let’s hope it continues. 

Yes, indeed. The University Press of Florida also published "Henning Kronstam: Portrait of a Danish Dancer" by Alexandra Tomalonis.

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Florida has been working on their dance line for quite some time -- currently, they're one of the more active dance publishers in the US.

 

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Thanks to all who have read this book by Bettijane Sills with Elizabeth McPherson.  Just want to clarify that Bettijane Sills danced with NYCB from 1962-1973. This book is her memoir about her childhood as a working actor, into her career with NYCB, then further as a professor at Purchase College.

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