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

4.0 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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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.
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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; 1 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 (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #648,663 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Hardcover
Working in NYC for a couple of years in the mid-60's, with season tickets available at a price my limited salary would bear, and with the new Lincoln Center location (at the then new Lincoln Center), I was able to see the numerous Balanchine productions of the era (as well as the brilliant opera productions with the likes of Beverly Sills performing). Knowing nothing of ballet and only what I learned from watching Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, The Nicholas Brother on film (and many others live, benefit of growing up in Brooklyn. leaving permanently only with the onset of the Korean War (does anyone remember that UN Police action these days?).
For various reasons that period ended my experience of live formal dance save for the occasional television production I managed to catch. Only with retirement did I amass a collection of DVD's with assorted choreographers represented as they came to my attention. Withal, I write as a pure amateur in dance and commend Teachout's introduction to Balanchine from that perspective only. At the prices shown today on Amazon for used copies (or new for that matter), it is easy to commend it wholeheartedly to the viewer who wants to learn a valuable bit about dance and one of its modern masters. Teachout is a self-identified enthusiast of the choreographers work and should be read with that perspective but he also makes quite clear, if only with great brevity, the behavioral patterns which many of us would find quite distasteful. Whether or not one accepts these as the privilege of genius, whether or not one believes these to be inevitable flaws when this genius involves working groups of people in intimate and extended circumstances, bringing them forward to public view, even with brevity does create stimulating contemplation of just how to take the man.
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