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Holding On to the Air: An Autobiography Paperback – September 25, 2002

4.8 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Farrell, for years the chief muse of New York City Ballet cofounder and master choreographer George Balanchine, has led an extraordinary, frequently controversial life. Here with former NYCB dancer Bentley, she tells of it with humility, integrity, wit and sophistication. Farrell's is first of all a classically American story of a self-made woman: growing up a tomboy and a dance student in a broken home in Cincinnati, Ohio, she struck out at 15 for Manhattan with her mother and sisters on the chance that she might be accepted into the famed School of American Ballet. Discovered, aesthetically molded and eventually wooed by Russian-born Balanchine, she left NYCB in 1969 after it became apparent that her husband, dancer Paul Mejia, could have no career there so long as Mr. B.'s jealous moods prevailed. Farrell returned to the company in 1974 and retired in 1989 at the age of 44, one of the century's greatest ballerinas. The details of her decades as a dancer vie in interest here with those of her private self; she is both discreet and incisive in her views of on- and offstage events. Photos not seen by PW. BOMC alternate.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

The dance world has been waiting to hear Farrell's story ever since this noted ballerina retired from the New York City Ballet in 1989, six years after the death of NYCB director George Balanchine, acknowledged choreographic genius of this century. As Balanchine's muse and center of his attentions, she collaborated with him in the creation of his most enduring ballets. Though she could not reciprocate in kind when he fell in love with her, she speaks with real feeling of their mutual devotion, which found its physical consummation in their work together at the ballet studio and in her performances for him onstage. The book's highest appeal will be to the dance audience; ballet students and fans will find it fascinating. It is essential for any performing arts collections. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/90.
- Sheila Riley, Smithsonian, Washington, D.C.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: University Press of Florida; 1st edition (September 25, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813025931
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813025933
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #253,675 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
A must read for ballet lovers, Holding on the Air is beautifully and honestly written by Suzanne Farrell, legendary ballerina of the New York City Ballet. The reader is taken from Miss Farrell's early days as Suzanne "Ficker," ballet student, to Suzanne Farrell, ballet star. She writes about her early hardship at NYCB, her marriage, her fame, and her somewhat loving and complicated relationship with choreographer and ballet master George Balanchine. Balanchine once told Farrell to think of "holding on to the air" in order to do a particular balance. For me, the title of her book signifies her holding on to the air that gave her dancing life. It signifies holding on to memories, holding on to her artistry, and for using her air to inspire so many younger dancers. Truly a candid and telling story of America's premiere ballerina.
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Format: Paperback
After reading (or, in my case, rereading) Suzanne Farrell's wonderful book, one feels a tremendous debt of gratitude. It isn't just that her life and views on dance and art are fascinating, though that is certainly true. It's the tremendous sense of generosity and compassion that flow from these pages. I remember when I first read her mother's words to her young daughters, that if they had "the arts in their life they would never be lonely", that I quietly marked the page, closed the book, and wept appreciatively. This was the first time I had heard these words expressed by anyone and it confirmed the feelings I've had since being very young.
Many may find the Balanchine references the definitive biography of this section of his life, but there is so much more to this glorious volume, gratefully back in print from the University of Florida. This paperback edition is very well-bound, pages are highest quality; the price may seem a tad high, but is in truth worth more than pricier hardcovers. This, along with the DVD of Farrell's exquisite "Elusive Muse" documentary make an outstanding gift idea for young people uncertain of how to attain their dreams. Ms. Farrell's life is certainly a great inspiration.
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Format: Paperback
I stumbled across this book by accident almost a year ago and have been touched by it ever since. I'm not sure that I can explain the specialness of this of this story but it feels like a real life fairy tale. You can feel Ms. Farrell's emotions and passion of what it must have been like for her to work with her teacher, George Balanchine. What a dynamic duo they must have been together. I would recommend this book to everyone, whether you have been exposed to ballet or not, as a special glimpse into a very public but very private life. Truly a lovely story.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you like ballet and are interested in the dancers that performed for one of the greatest choreographers of all time this is an interesting book. Farrell outlines her childhood, how she got into the New York City Ballet, her relationship with George Balanchine, her five years with the Belgian ballet and her eventual return to NYCB as well as what she did after her dancing days are over.

She doesn't talk much about her husband, Paul, whom she divorced after 30 something years after the book was written. They seemed to spend more time apart than together. One gets the impression that the career is what trumps all.

It's interesting to get the information, much of what is already known if you've read other sources, from the perspective of Farrell herself. It provides a lot of insight into life inside a ballet school and the mentality of people who willingly sacrifice their entire lives for one single thing.
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Format: Paperback
First, I have the 1990 version of her autobiography. While it is interested, a lot has happened to Suzanne Farrell since 1990. She was awarded the National Medal of the Arts and inducted as one of the five Kennedy Center Honors in Washington D.C. Suzanne Farrell is a classically trained ballerina who has become a force in American ballet. Her relationship with George Ballanchine is fascinating. She was one of his beloved muses.

At 15 years old, she moved with her divorced mother and sister to New York City to attend the prestigious ballet school founded by George Ballanchine. Her life would never be the same. While reading her autobiography, I found her intriguing and likable and approachable. She's not famous enough to be mobbed unless you are in the ballet world.

Even then, Suzanne Farrell is quite generous and kind to her svengali, George Balanchine. They had an unusual relationship. She probably considered him more as the surrogate father figure than a possible lover. George was not only enamored with the youthful Suzanne but quite possessive of her. The relationship between George and Suzanne is both fascinating and disturbing maybe because of the age difference or his five marriages. Suzanne was a bit naive but she was capable of knowing George's feelings towards her than the other dancers in the company. Still it's quite a powerful read and Suzanne's rebellion and independence is quite interesting particularly her relationship with George or Mr. B. as she refers him in the book.

No matter what happened in this complex relationship, she is rather a kind individual with a generous heart and soul and a conscience. Her relationship with George was complicated, let's just leave it to that.
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