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« "One Plkus One" [haiku by David Shapiro] | Main | The Bennington Diary #3 [by David Lehman] »

February 24, 2023


Suzanne Farrell was the greatest Balanchine ballerina I have ever seen. It seems clear to me that the great choreographer had finally found his total muse -- in body, in spirit, in dance genius -- who could inspire and help to create his sublime visions. As the famed dance critic, Arlene Croce, once wrote, "We will never see her (Farrell's) like again."

Thank you for this interesting article on George Balanchine. Even after all the fine books and articles, I still love reading about his monumental, magnificent work.

Mindy Aloff, thank you for your intelligent discussion of Jennifer Homans's book, "Mr B.," which I am currently reading. The errors you mention are alarming and it is shocking that a major publisher, Random House, or Ms. Homans' herself, did not thoroughly fact check the draft many times. There is much I would like to say about your review but I didn't see anything with which I disagreed and much that I applauded.

I had a moment of disbelief when I read Homans' opinion on the ending of Apollo but particularly when I saw her assessment of "The Four T's," one of my top favorite ballets. Granted it's her opinion but how can anyone who has spent from her teen years at SAB, as Ms. Homans has, through to researching and writing this current book immersed in ballet, not feel the transcendent beauty and lifting of the spirit that gives me chills every time I see that ballet?

My gratitude to Emily Fragos and Lisa Mehigan for their respective comments above. Many of the book's problems are easily fixable. Make the corrections and print a second edition. No mess, no fuss: Don't think (about the $), dears, just do.

Thank you, Mindy Aloff, for shining the light of your expertise on this prodigious and highly praised biography. So far, I have not seen reviews of the book by others I consider dance experts. Although the book is, for the most part, an engrossing read, I noted dismaying problems throughout. I found so many errors and mischaracterizations in the particular area of my expertise, as the biographer of Tanaquil Le Clercq, that I wonder about the sections I know less about. My book is listed among the copious bibliographies Homans includes, but I found no evidence that she or one of her assistants read it. And I am not the only author whose work was cited who feels this way. I have detailed my concerns in a long piece that highlights the book's virtues and flaws, which I submitted for publication, and others are doing the same.

Apart from errors, I was dismayed by Homans's mean-spirited tone when describing the ballerinas Balanchine anointed with major roles, even Farrell, who is called "spoiled" more than once without any evidence supplied. Mary Ellen Moylan, called "the first great Balanchine dancer" by Maria Tallchief, is not even mentioned. The men fare better. As for Balanchine, I gained a deeper appreciation for the range of his intellect, but I wish that the author had not included unattributed gossip about his sexual proclivities. Too often, Homans dares to speak for Balanchine himself, giving her interpretations of his feelings and/or thoughts about the women in his life, for example, with a novelistic imprecision, as if they came from him.

Entrusted with a life, a biographer should be as careful as a doctor. This cannot be the "definitive" word on Balanchine's life and work.

Thank you, OP, for this very thoughtful comment.

Thank you Mindy for this thoughtful review. I am about 2/3 of the way through the book, spotted many of the same errors you did, as well as the misidentification of the photographer Man Ray, who was NOT the Russian emigre she calls him: he was born in Maryland and grew up in New Jersey. More egregious is the assertion that Ballet Caravan performed some of Mr. B's ballets: they did not. Like Lisa Mehigan, I am shocked that a publisher of the standing of Random House doesn't have better copyeditors; Homans it seems to me has been ill-served by them. I do believe that Balanchine was such a giant figure that there can be no definitive biography of him, just as there is no definitive biography of Pablo Picasso, or Virginia Woolf.

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"Lively and affectionate" Publishers Weekly


I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman


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