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George Balanchine


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The former editor in chief of Simon & Schuster, Alfred A. Knopf, and The New Yorker, Robert Gottlieb was on the board of directors of the New York City Ballet for many years. He writes literary criticism for the New York Review of Books, the New York Times Book Review, and The New Yorker, and is the dance critic for the New York Observer.


One would be hard-pressed to find a better match for Balanchine for this entry in the Eminent Lives series than Gottlieb, the distinguished editor and dance critic who for years was on the board of directors of the New York City Ballet. Although he knew Balanchine, Gottlieb is quick to point out it was not a close relationship: "To me... he was a god, and I saw my role as being some kind of messenger of the gods." But Gottlieb captures both the divine and human, offering an elegant, sharp and sophisticated take on the choreographer's life. In many instances he elaborates on points made in Bernard Taper's seminal biography, Balanchine. And he adds personal moments, such as Balanchine's comment regarding his choice of successor at the New York City Ballet: "Balanchine made that very clear to me as we were standing in the wings together.... `It has to be Peter [Martins].... He knows what a ballerina needs.' " This loving tribute captures Balanchine's legacy: his energy, confidence, lack of pretension and, most important, his joy in creation. B&w photos. (Nov. 1) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

This new work about Balanchine is like a ballet by the master himself-it goes right to the heart of things. At first one is surprised by its brevity. But Gottlieb, once editor in chief of Knopf, Simon & Schuster, and The New Yorker and for many years intimately connected to the New York City Ballet, offers an informed study that is at once concise and nuanced. Gottlieb covers all the basics, from Balanchine's early training with the Maryinsky, to his first choreographic efforts while on the run throughout Europe, to Lincoln Kirstein's fabled intervention and Balanchine's arrival and eventual triumph in America. The result is a nicely compressed introduction for newcomers that still offers insights to Balanchine fanatics; Gottlieb often relates accepted versions of events (Balanchine could ignore or embroider the facts), then does his research and surmises what really happened. Those wanting more discussion of the ballets themselves might try Robert Garis's Following Balanchine or Terry Teachout's new work (see below), but this is an eminent summation of what was indeed an "eminent life." For all dance collections and any general collection needing updated coverage on Balanchine. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 7/04.]-Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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