Jerome Robbins, by Himself: Selections from His Letters, Journals, Drawings, Photographs, and an Unfinished Memoir

Knopf. Oct. 2019. 448p. ed. by ed. by Amanda Vaill. illus. index. ISBN 9780451494665. $40; ebk. ISBN 9780451494672. MUSIC
Choreographer Robbins has been the subject of biographies, television specials, stage revues, and a season-long dance tribute by the New York City Ballet in 2018. West Side Story would not exist without him, though he was fired from the movie production, and he left his mark on Fiddler on the Roof and Gypsy, among other Broadway shows. Vaill (Somewhere: The Life of Jerome Robbins) allows Robbins’s words (and, occasionally, drawings) to speak for themselves in this curated collection, selected primarily from Robbins’s personal papers, archived at the New York Public Library. His talents spread over dancing, choreography, script editing, directing for opera, television, and more. Vaill’s selections depict a man who could be straightforward (“let’s have no more of it”; “Tell him to knock off.”), controlling, and unsure (“I have felt such a hoax”) but willing to look frankly at the successes of his life, loves, and work, as well as where they fell short and what he wished had gone differently. Frequent photos from his social and professional life, along with chapter introductions by the author, add interest.
VERDICT Suggested for casual dance readers and Robbins aficionados alike. [See Prepub Alert, 4/8/19.]

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