ALL IN THE DANCES: A Brief Life of George Balanchine
So said Twyla Tharp. This year is the centenary of the birth of master choreographer George Balanchine (d. 1983), who propelled ballet into the 20th century with the neoclassical style. Two excellent short studies—one a viewer's guide for beginners, one a short bio for novices and sophisticates alike—offer perspectives on the life and work of Mr. B (as he was affectionately known).
"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. Agent, Writers' Representatives. (Nov.)