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.
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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
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