Microsoft word - freed reads 7-30-06a[1].doc

Freed Reads
2006 FreedUSA

If you’re a professional dancer, a student of dance, or just love the art form, may
we recommend a book—or two or three—that we know you’l find to be nothing
short of fascinating?
Freed Reads is the place where devotees of dance gain inspiration from the life
stories of famous bal erinas and choreographers, as wel as the immortals of the
silver screen.
Today, we profile the lives of three dancers, al of whom were principals at one
time or another at New York City Bal et, and al of whom danced for the Master,
George Balanchine.

Holding on to the Air: An Autobiography

by Suzanne Farrel & Toni Bentley
Six years after the death of legendary choreographer George Balanchine (who
discovered, molded and, eventual y, fel in love with the young dancer), Suzanne
Farrel recounts her life: From the time she arrived in New York City at age 15,
through her years in New York City Bal et as Balanchine’s ultimate “muse”, to
marrying and leaving the company—and returning years later to work with
Balanchine again.
As the center of Balanchine's attentions, Farrel col aborated with him in the
creation of his most celebrated works. Though she could not reciprocate when he
fel in love with her, Farrel speaks with great regard for their mutual devotion,
which found its physical consummation through the “dance” and not the
traditional way. The book's highest appeal wil be to the dance audience; bal et
students and fans wil find it fascinating. It is essential for any performing arts
col ections.
Co-written with former NYCB dancer Toni Bentley, Suzanne tel s her
extraordinary and often controversial tale with grace, integrity, and style, never
going on the offensive or writing an unkind word of anyone. Farrel 's book is a
moving personal story, and readers wil find her life nothing short of inspirational.
Once a Dancer An Autobiography
by Al egra Kent
Like Suzanne Farrel , Al egra Kent joined the New York City Bal et at the age of
fifteen. She remained there for 30 years—20 of those years as principal dancer.
Beautiful, sensuous, and mysterious, she quickly became an essential
Balanchine staple—and the story of her personal life is as dramatic as the story
of her rise to fame.
Born Iris Cohen in 1937, Kent reveals her often strange and bizarre life, which at
times reads more like a Grimm’s fairy tale than a dancer’s memoir. Beginning
with stage mother/Christian Scientist Shirley Cohen, Al egra paints a portrait of a
slightly paranoid free spirit whose snap judgments would alter the course of her
young daughter’s life, including anglicizing the family name, a much disliked nose
job for Al egra, to moving the family from town to town at the drop of a hat. Iris
went so far as to push her daughter in a bad marriage to photographer Bert Stern
as the means to protect her from the clutches of Balanchine, whom often made a
habit of marrying his younger protégés.
Al egra’s love for dance manifested in her need to communicate in silence. Unlike
her mother, whose method was to talk things out, Al egra was drawn to bal et
because it al owed her to talk in “a soundless way.” As she writes, “…No one can
touch silence.”
Kent would often leave the dance world at the peak of her successes, only to
return as mysteriously as she had left. One self-imposed exile involved having
three babies at the peak of her fame. Another time was due to excessive
overeating, that led to her discovery of water wings and to author Al egra Kent's
Water Beauty Book
Though Ms. Kent's autobiography also offers wonderful remembrances of her
contemporaries including, among others, dancer Edward Vil el a, costumer Mme.
Karinska, artist Joseph Cornwel , Violette Verdy, and Baryshnikov, it remains
overal a poignant—and sometimes painful—account of one of the dance world’s
most talented and enigmatic artists.
Maria Tallchief: America's Prima Ballerina
by Maria Tal chief
Born in 1925 to an Osage Indian chief and his Scots-Irish wife, Maria Tal chief
grew up in the more stable and comfortable environment that eluded future
col eague Al egra Kent. And, unlike Ms. Kent, Maria’s doting mother left Maria
alone once her dancing career told hold. Also, unlike Al egra, Maria would not
elude the romantic overtures of Balanchine—no, she would marry him.
Instantly accepted as a member of the Bal et Russe as a young teen, Maria
quickly caught the eye of the controversial and bril iant choreographer. Their
marriage—both personal y and professional y—formed the beginnings of the
New York City Bal et, where she would dance for 18 years. Acknowledged as the
most technical y accomplished bal erina ever produced in America, Maria’s
dedication to her craft led to the company’s first great success, 1949’s "The
Firebird." The foremost exponent of Balanchine's choreography, Tal chief’s other
important roles included Orpheus, Scotch Symphony, Caracole, Swan Lake and
The Nutcracker.
Tal chief's dignified autobiography provides us with many stories and insights that
shed light on both this crucial moment in dance history and Balanchine's elusive
personality. She is reserved about their personal relationship but candid about
the increasing favor Balanchine showed to younger dancers, which led to the
annulment of her marriage, and her departure from NYCB in 1966.
Assisted by ghostwriter Larry Kaplan (who also co-authored Edward Vil el a's
autobiography, Prodigal Son), Tal chief remains modest about her own
astonishing talent, but expresses continued amazement for her former husband’s
bril iance. Her descriptions of working with Balanchine and Stravinsky are
fascinating, while her accounts of a typical 14-hour practice day are formidable.
Maria Tal chief: America's Prima Bal erina is a fascinating self-portrait of the fairy-
tale life of a woman who understood that talent, committed to a singular, focused
purpose, could change the world.


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