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Bravura!: Lucia Chase and the American Ballet Theatre Hardcover – September 27, 2009

5 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Book Description

Long-awaited biography of the "Queen Mother" of American Ballet

"A book that should be read by historians, ballet artists, ballet lovers, and book lovers in general. It is a fascinating story not only about the growth of ballet in America but also of the courage and persistence of a Great Lady."--Irina Baronova

 

"It's high time the magnetically American story of Lucia Chase and Ballet Theatre was told. Like the history-making and aptly named company she kept, Lucia was colorful, daring, and almost self-destructively determined--an original always in passionate pursuit of the original."--Arthur Laurents

 

"Lucia Chase, an American original, is made vivid on these pages. For over forty years much of ballet in the U.S. rode her coattails, or vice versa--you decide."--Eliot Feld

 

To many people, Lucia Chase (1897-1986) was the American Ballet Theatre, and her reign as the queen of American ballet lasted for more than four decades.

It was Chase who brought Nureyev, Bujones, Kirkland, and eventually Baryshnikov to ABT. Under her leadership, the company worked with such legends as Agnes de Mille, Anthony Tudor, Jerome Robbins, and Twyla Tharp. Her drive, ambition, tenacity, and money kept the doors open even during the lean years.

A dancer when the company made its debut in 1940, she was artistic director for an unprecedented thirty-five years, from 1945 to 1980. Over the course of her career, she received numerous honors and awards, including the U.S. Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

Combining unique personal insights as Chase's son along with experience garnered from his own professional dance and administrative career, Alex Ewing offers the definitive story of one of the true pioneers in the world of American ballet.

 

 
 

About the Author

Alex C. Ewing is chancellor emeritus of the North Carolina School of the Arts and former general director of the Joffrey Ballet.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: University Press of Florida; First Edition (US) First Printing edition (September 27, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813033764
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813033761
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #282,229 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
You may be skeptical about this book, fearing it will be a scissor-and-paste affair of yellowing clippings, stale press-book biographies, ballet synopses and tiresome chronologies or, worse, a saccharine hagiography by a devoted son praising St. Lucia.

All such notions are dispelled a few pages in. It's a great story compellingly told and a damn good "read."

Ewing has avoided many pitfalls in its construction and telling and spent many years in research. It's an honest and evenhanded an account of his twin and inseparable subjects - Lucia Chase and American Ballet Theatre - and it's vividly and exuberantly written.

There have been some picture histories of ABT, and a number of autobiographies by dancers have touched ABT's story but often only as it affected them.

Ewing gives us the whole story, as seen through the 40-year involvement of Miss Chase as dreamer, dancer, benefactor and driving force behind the often imperiled troupe's rise to one of the world's top dance companies.

We are very fortunate to have such an important story told so well by someone who was there through it all, if only in knee pants during ABT's earliest years.

Yet one achievement of the book is how Ewing has reconsidered his youthful impressions from a detached, adult point of view. As a former manager of a major dance company, Ewing is a doubly qualified critic of his mother's limitations.

These include her lapses in running the business side of the company, for which she had no feel, and perpetually having to rescue ABT from extinction with her personal fortune.

And he is to be commended for the delicate way he has intertwined his family history without unduly imposing on the narrative.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Up front, I'm an insider. The author is my cousin, the subject my aunt.
I was only a distant and very junior spectator to some of the events recounted in the book.
One reason for writing this review is that I, like hundreds of the members of American Ballet Theatre (ABT) during the forty years described, was the beneficiary of Lucia Chase's extraordinary kindness and generosity. This is a way of publicly expressing my thanks to her.
But Lucia Chase was many things besides being kind and generous. She was passionate and determined, often to the point of hair-tearing obstinacy.
The book is a must read for anyone interested in American ballet.
For today's balletomanes accustomed to having five important companies in New York and dozens elsewhere across the country, the book describes the painful process of arriving there. ABT was the pioneer. Its birth and survival were a saga. When it was launched in the 1940's, the U.S. was a wasteland in terms of ballet, the only offerings being sporadic visits by foreign companies.
The hard grit business of creating a ballet public in the U.S. meant years of gruelling bus tours between modest hotels, low salaries, inadequate theatres and perpetual financial insecurity. Only ABT did this.
The book is beautifully crafted and perfectly edited. It reads like a thriller.
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Format: Hardcover
Bravo to "Bravura!" This book, page by page, is a transfixing history of Lucia Chase and The American Ballet Theatre. Detailed, but nuanced, Alex Ewing presents an honest story that for dancers and dance lovers everywhere is both familiar and surprising. Beautifully written, Alex Ewing has an eye of an historian and a heart of a dancer.
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