cover image Balanchine & the Lost Muse: Revolution & the Making of a Choreographer

Balanchine & the Lost Muse: Revolution & the Making of a Choreographer

Elizabeth Kendall. Oxford Univ., $35 (304p) ISBN 978-0-19-995934-1

In this extensively researched, if overly detailed, dual biography, literature professor and dance critic Kendall (Autobiography of a Wardrobe) posits that ballet dancer Lidia Ivanova (1903-1924) had an enduring influence on the long and illustrious choreographic career of Georgi Balanchivadze (1904-1983), known in the West since 1925 as George Balanchine. Tracing the obscure origins and early childhoods of both figures, through their years at St. Petersburg’s Imperial Theater School from 1914 until 1921, and into the mid-1920s, Kendall juxtaposes the classmates’ rarified lives with the political turmoil of Russia in the teens and ’20s. This generation of dancers, Kendall contends, trained in prerevolutionary ballet technique but assimilated new Soviet-era tenets into their psyches, thereby creating a modern style of ballet embodied by Ivanova as a dancer and Balanchine as choreographer. Highlights include contemporaries’ recollections of Ivanova’s performances and an analysis of her mystique—attributable to her physique, intense musicality, and deep “compulsion to reach audiences”—as well as a discussion of selected Balanchine works from the 1920s through to his final masterpiece, Mozartiana. An uneasy combination of history and biography, the book informs readers unfamiliar with the cultural history of the period but leaves balletomanes hungry for more convincing connections between the so-called muse and the master choreographer. Map and b&w photos. Agent: Lane Zachary, Zachary Shuster Harmsworth. (July)