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Somewhere: The Life of Jerome Robbins [Kindle Edition]

Amanda Vaill
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $22.95
Kindle Price: $14.39
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Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

From the author of the acclaimed Everybody Was So Young, the definitive and major biography of the great choreographer and Broadway legend Jerome Robbins

To some, Jerome Robbins was a demanding perfectionist, a driven taskmaster, a theatrical visionary; to others, he was a loyal friend, a supportive mentor, a generous and entertaining companion and colleague. Born Jerome Rabinowitz in New York City in 1918, Jerome Robbins repudiated his Jewish roots along with his name only to reclaim them with his triumphant staging of Fiddler on the Roof. A self-proclaimed homosexual, he had romances or relationships with both men and women, some famous—like Montgomery Clift and Natalie Wood—some less so. A resolutely unpolitical man, he was forced to testify before Congress at the height of anti-Communist hysteria. A consummate entertainer, he could be paralyzed by shyness; nearly infallible professionally, he was conflicted, vulnerable, and torn by self-doubt. Guarded and adamantly private, he was an inveterate and painfully honest journal writer who confided his innermost thoughts and aspirations to a remarkable series of diaries and memoirs. With ballets like Dances at a Gathering, Afternoon of a Faun, and The Concert, he humanized neoclassical dance; with musicals like On the Town, Gypsy, and West Side Story, he changed the face of theater in America.
In the pages of this definitive biography, Amanda Vaill takes full measure of the complicated, contradictory genius who was Jerome Robbins. She re-creates his childhood as the only son of Russian Jewish immigrants; his apprenticeship as a dancer and Broadway chorus gypsy; his explosion into prominence at the age of twenty-five with the ballet Fancy Free and its Broadway incarnation, On the Town; and his years of creative dominance in both theater and dance. She brings to life his colleagues and friends—from Leonard Bernstein and George Balanchine to Robert Wilson and Robert Graves—and his loves and lovers. And she tells the full story behind some of Robbins’s most difficult episodes, such as his testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee and his firing from the film version of West Side Story.
Drawing on thousands of pages of documents from Robbins’s personal and professional papers, to which she was granted unfettered access, as well as on other archives and hundreds of interviews, Somewhere is a riveting narrative of a life lived onstage, offstage, and backstage. It is also an accomplished work of criticism and social history that chronicles one man’s phenomenal career and places it squarely in the cultural ferment of a time when New York City was truly “a helluva town.”

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Robbins (1918–1998) was the choreographic genius behind the 1957 Broadway hit West Side Story and other musical classics, in addition to such great ballets as Fancy Free and Dances at a Gathering. Vaill (Everybody Was So Young: Gerald and Sara Murphy: A Lost Generation Love Story) was given unprecedented access to Robbins's personal papers after his death, and the result is a critically sophisticated biography that's as compulsively readable as a novel. As she traverses Robbins's growth as an artist, his ambivalence about his Jewish heritage, his bisexuality and his relationships with other artists from Balanchine, to Bernstein to Baryshnikov, she writes with both passion and compassion. More than Deborah Jowitt in her recent Robbins bio, Vaill delves into Robbins's personal life, quoting frequently from his diary and letters. But the result isn't salacious; rather, it allows a more vibrant and vital rendering of the man. Known for being very harsh on dancers, Robbins was called everything from "genius and difficult to tyrant and sadist," says Vaill, "yet the work... was marked by an ineffable sweetness and tenderness." In her balanced, sensitive portrait of an American theatrical genius, Vaill captures these contradictions elegantly. The book is essential reading for lovers of theater and dance. (Nov. 21)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Praise for Somewhere

“Jerome Robbins is the great subject of American theatrical biography—self-contradictory, self-hating, arrogant and terrified and gifted almost beyond compare—and Amanda Vaill has done him justice. I can’t think of a better full-length portrait of an American choreographer or director, and I can’t imagine a better book about Robbins ever being written.”
—Terry Teachout, drama critic, The Wall Street Journal

Product Details

  • File Size: 5011 KB
  • Print Length: 720 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books (May 6, 2008)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0018ZS4JK
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #609,752 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
The mercurial brilliance and personal shortcomings of choreographer extraordinaire Jerome Robbins are captured with equal amounts of compassion and objectivity in Amanda Vaill's comprehensive biography. His impressive resume represents some of the most arresting work in dance and theater - "On the Town", "High Button Shoes", "Call Me Madam", "Gypsy", "Wonderful Town", "Bells Are Ringing", "The King and I", "Peter Pan", "The Pajama Game", "Funny Girl", "Fiddler on the Roof", "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum". Robbins' most famous work is the stage and screen versions of "West Side Story", his legendary collaboration with composer Leonard Bernstein and then-prodigious lyricist Stephen Sondheim. Yet for all these accomplishments, he was reviled as much as he was revered. Stellar results notwithstanding, his vaunted perfectionism and Method-style approach were taxing to many, and it would often come under the guise of brutality and verbal abuse. Although Vaill's book is the third Robbins biography to be released in the last five years, hers reflects access to the subject's personal diaries before his death at age eighty in 1998, which lends the book a voice that one could easily imagine approximates Robbins' own.

The author dives deeply into Robbins' childhood to seek answers to his personal dichotomy, and she pieces together a vivid if somewhat pat portrait of self-loathing. Robbins' mother comes across as a vindictive woman who used her deep-rooted insecurity as a lightning rod for attention, while his father seems weak-willed and foolish. The combination of their personalities already reinforces Robbins' incurable sense of self-doubt due to his shame over being both Jewish and gay.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Broadway Equals Robbins March 14, 2007
If Jerome Robbins had only directed "West Side Story" that would have been enough to establish his legend on Broadway...if you read this wonderful biography by the very skillful Amanda Vaill you will discover that almost every production from the Golden Era of Broadway had the Robbins touch. Mr Robbin was also a member of the American Ballet Theatre and created many celebrated dance pieces. A complex individual, at times; a son of a bitch, he always got the best from his performers and his collaborators. West Side Story, High Button Shoes, Peter Pan, Gypsy, Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum, The King and I, Fiddler=Robbins
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent bio of a haunted genius September 30, 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I'm just finishing this book and wanted to stay home from work just so I could continue to read it. I have loved Robbins' choreography since WSS (movie) came out when I was 8 years old. I was lucky to be living in NYC and got to see some of his ballets/dances. He lived an exciting life and yet lived under a cloud that he wasn't quite good enough, that someone would discover the truth (that he wsa just faking it) and call him out, feared being discovered that he was Jewish and, and at least for half of his life, feared he'd be labeled a homosexual. That's a lot of hiding and self-doubt. And yet, he created dances like no one else has. This book exposes all this, in a gentle, loving manner so you come to love this man, care about who he was behind the celebrity. It makes you wonder if all of his fears was the reason he drove himself (and everyone else) do relentlessly to excel. It makes you wonder if insecurity is what makes for a great dancer (many dancers seem to have a whole lot of self-doubt). It makes you wonder what he may have been like or may have achieved (or not achieved) had he grown up feeling loved and cherished by everyone, confident about his abilities, proud of his heritage, etc. It's sad to think that he went through life feeling that no one really loved and understood him. Many probably did but he couldn't see that. I am glad Robbins inhabited this world and gave us, for whatever reason, his heart and soul in his dances and directing and everything else.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Something Just Out of Reach July 29, 2014
Insightful and fascinating book about a singularly talented and remarkable choreographer. I knew nothing of his life before this...only knew how much I loved and enjoyed "West Side Story". Learned a LOT from this book: a real eye-opener, in a very special way. Check it out.
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More About the Author

AMANDA VAILL is the author of the bestselling EVERYBODY WAS SO YOUNG: GERALD AND SARA MURPHY - A LOST GENERATION LOVE STORY, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics' Circle Award in biography, and SOMEWHERE: THE LIFE OF JEROME ROBBINS, for which she received a Guggenheim Fellowship. She is also co-author of SEAMAN SCHEPPS: A CENTURY OF NEW YORK JEWELRY DESIGN, an illustrated study of the work of her designer grandfather; and she has edited or contributed to a number of other books in the field of arts and culture. Her screenplay for the feature-length PBS documentary JEROME ROBBINS: SOMETHING TO DANCE ABOUT received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Writing for Nonfiction Programming, and the film won an Emmy, a CINE Golden Eagle, and the George Foster Peabody Award.

Before becoming a full-time writer in 1992, Ms. Vaill was Executive Editor of Viking Penguin, where her authors included Ingmar Bergman, T.C. Boyle, Blanche Wiesen Cook, Iris Murdoch, and William T. Vollman. Her journalism and criticism have appeared in such publications as Architectural Digest, ArtNews, Ballet Review, Esquire, New York Magazine, Town & Country, and The Washington Post. She lives in New York City, and has just finished her next book, a narrative history entitled HOTEL FLORIDA: LOVE AND DEATH IN THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR, whose protagonists include the writers Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn and the photographers Robert Capa and Gerda Taro.

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