Mr. B: George Balanchine’s 20th Century

Random. Nov. 2022. 784p. ISBN 9780812994308. $40. DANCE
This empathetic biography of master choreographer George Balanchine (1904–83) is an unqualified success. Homans is the perfect person to write it, being a former professional ballerina, the director of NYU’s Center for Ballet and the Arts, and the author of the definitive history of modern ballet, Apollo’s Angels. It’s difficult to overstate Balanchine’s contribution to American dance. With Lincoln Kirstein, he founded and led the School of American Ballet and the New York City Ballet for decades, and he created 465 works, which extended and even broke the conventions of classical ballet. From 1934’s Serenade to 1967’s Jewels and on, he dispensed with the tradition of dance following a story and instead used dance—his dancers’ actions—to create a story. Out of movement, the feeling of story emerges. He’s often classified as neoclassical, but there’s nothing classical about a choreography that embraces awkward side-walks, -glides, and -turns and elements from modern dance, tap, and show music. Homans’s lovingly detailed descriptions of the dances and the challenges they pose to dancers, bring them to life for readers.
VERDICT This book will fly off the shelves. It’s that good and the subject that absorbing.
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