Mr. B: George Balanchine's Twentieth Century
From the author of Apollo's Angels, the first major biography of the figure who modernised dance: an intimate portrait of the man behind the mythology, set against the vibrant backdrop of the century that shaped him
Balanchine's radical approach to choreography reinvented the art of dance and his richly evocative ballets made him a lasting legend. Today, nearly thirty years after his death, the man is still so revered that the mysteries of his biography are often overlooked. Who was George Balanchine?
Born in Russia under the last Czar, Balanchine experienced the upheavals of World War One, the Russian Revolution, exile, World War Two and the cultural Cold War; he was part of the Russian modernist moment, a key player in Paris in the 1920s, and in New York he revolutionized ballet, pressing it to the forefront of modernism and making it serious and popular art.
His influences were myriad. He considered himself Georgian, yet he did not step foot in his ancestral homeland until he was in his fifties. He was deeply influenced by the cold grandeur and sensuous beauty of the Orthodox Church, but equally absorbed by the new rhythms and dance steps coming out of Harlem in the 1930s. He collaborated broadly, with figures like Diaghilev and Stravinsky.
A man of muses, Balanchine was married five times, always to young dancers, and consumed by many other loves in between. The difficulties of his life - personal losses, bouts of ill health, debilitating loneliness and dark moods of despair - resonate in his dances, which speak so poignantly of love and loss, and yet the full implications for his art remain unexplored.Now for the first time we look beyond the myth of 'Mr B' - the mask which Balanchine himself helped to create - to see 'Mr B' the man.
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