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All in the Dances: A Brief Life of George Balanchine Hardcover – November 1, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"Balanchine was every bit as important as... Matisse," says literary critic Teachout (The Skeptic: A Life of H.L. Mencken), who writes for the viewer who doesn't know a passé from a pas de chat, but has, like Teachout, been "amazed" by one of Balanchine's works. His book is pithy, conversational and vivid, touching on all the major points of Balanchine's life. When a journalist asked Balanchine about his life, he replied, "It's all in the programs." But there was more to it, for his choreography is inexorably bound with the ballerinas he loved. He married four (Tamara Geva, Vera Zorina, Maria Tallchief and Tanaquil Le Clerqc), and lived with a fifth (Alexandra Danilova). In later years, he also pursued other dancers, most notably Allegra Kent and Suzanne Farrell. "Woman is the goddess, the poetess, the muse," he said. His company, trained in his fast, energetic, lean style, was the perfect vehicle for his works—among those discussed by Teachout are the elegant and jazzy Concerto Barocco, the acidic, spare Agon and the mysterious Serenade. Balanchine's ballets are modern masterpieces, and Teachout, moving chronologically from work to work, uses them as stepping stones to tell Balanchine's own story. This is highly recommended as a first book on the life and art of George Balanchine for students and the general reader. 8 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Literary and arts critic Teachout has written a freer and more interpretative book, one focused on the reception of Balanchine's work. Teachout emphasizes Balanchine's profound musical knowledge and utter lack of pretension and the radicalness of his "plotless" ballets, with their "daredevil energy" and spare costumes and stage settings (works best described as "sound made visible"). Funny, even catty, Teachout conjures a far more tyrannical figure than Gottlieb, but he is sensitive in his chronicling of Balanchine's marriages and divorces and generates great excitement with his spirited descriptions of Balanchine's triumphs, from the perennially popular Nutcracker to the revolutionary Agon. Teachout shares Gottlieb's view of the great choreographer as a man indelibly marked by a brush with death, an artist determined to live in the present. Balanchine told his dancers, "Do it now! There is only now." But thanks to Gottlieb and Teachout, Balanchine's ephemeral art also has a future. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; First Edition edition (November 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0151010889
  • ISBN-13: 978-0151010882
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.7 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,550,883 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I'm the drama critic of the Wall Street Journal, the critic-at-large of Commentary, and the author of "Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington," which will be published in October of 2013. I also blog about the arts at In addition to the books on this page, I've written a play, "Satchmo at the Waldorf," which was produced in 2012 by Shakespeare & Company of Lenox, Mass., Long Wharf Theatre of New Haven, Conn., and Philadelphia's Wilma Theater, and the libretti for two operas by Paul Moravec, "The Letter" and "Danse Russe." "Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong," which came out in 2009, was my first book about music, but I've been listening to jazz ever since my mother told me to come see Satchmo singing "Hello, Dolly!" on "The Ed Sullivan Show" in 1964, and I was a professional bassist before becoming a full-time writer. Among other things, I've written the liner notes for such albums as Diana Krall's "All for You," Maria Schneider's "Coming About," Karrin Allyson's "Daydream," Marian McPartland's "Just Friends," Luciana Souza's "Neruda," and Roger Kellaway's "Live at the Jazz Standard."

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Eileen Pollock on November 29, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I will make the inevitable comparison between this book and Robert Gottlieb's short biography of Balanchine. This book is my choice because Gottlieb's book, while businesslike, is a bit earthbound. Gottlieb's biography did not exude the spirit of dance for me. And the biographical facts, reported in brief by both Gottlieb and Teachout, have been given more scope in Bernard Taper's wonderful full length biography. In Teachout's favor, he is a dance critic, and he treats the dances themselves with more insight and depth. As a reader, I feel this added to the book's value. So the book I'll keep on my shelf is Terry Teachout's Balanchine.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By J Scott Morrison HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 4, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Teachout's short biography of Balanchine has a lot more meat in it than I expected, considering that he makes a comment in the Preface that he wrote it for the casual ballet-goer or even someone who has never been to the ballet. He takes a casual but observant stroll through Balanchine's professional and personal lives and with telling incident and anecdote makes this giant of twentieth-century art come alive, warts and all. Further, his tone is one of kindliness and understanding, even when it comes to Balanchine's inveterate womanizing, without it becoming a work of hagiography. And he conveys in words how Balanchine filled his plotless ballets with "the most extraordinary encounters and events" and changed the face of modern ballet.

I came to this book not as a balletomane but as a lover of the music of Stravinsky whose music, of course, was the aural life blood of Balanchine's art. I was not disappointed in that there were many glimpses of Stravinsky along the way. But more important Teachout's easy style and consummate story-telling ability made this a compulsive read. Many biographers lack that quality.

Frankly I would recommend this book not only to the dance neophyte like me, but to any lover of ballet, or modern dance, or of twentieth century music. It certainly provides a beautifully written record of one of the high points of American culture of its era.

Scott Morrison
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By atisheh VINE VOICE on November 27, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Teachout begins his short biography of George Balanchine by describing his first, spellbound experience of watching a Balanchine ballet. He wrote this book, he explains, because it was what he wanted after seeing this unexpected performance. "Why hasn't anybody ever told me about this? And what kind of man made it?" were the thoughts running through his head.

I had an identical experience when I first went to the NYCB, and this is exactly the book I wanted then. I wondered about the choreographer who had made ballet so modern, so unlike the frilly tutus and unrelenting prettiness of ballet as I thought I knew it. Teachout's moves rapidly through Balanchine's long life, but he manages to cover a lot of ground, from Mr. B's difficult childhood in Russia to his death from Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, to the legacy of his dances. Teachout succeeds in describing what was fresh and important about Balanchine's dances in vocabulary an intelligent layman can understand, and although his admiration for his subject is obvious, he does not shy away from describing the more scandalous aspects of Balanchine's life. The art and the gossip both help Teachout describe the creative process of a twentieth-century legend.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Frank O'File on February 15, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Gottlieb's is the book to get if you want a shorter and truthful account of this choreographic genius. Teachout attempts to lift Balanchine, who doesn't need the help, and the result is a book trying far too hard and accomplishing far too little. A disappointment.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A. Zakowski on February 12, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Most of the info I knew about Mr. B. was in the book. His talent was so great and he is very missed. He gave us beautiful ballets and his dancers loved him.
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