Following Balanchine

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Robert Garis

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The ballets of George Balanchine are among the great theatrical achievements of the twentieth century. In this extraordinary book, a sensitive and longtime observer describes his experience with and reactions to Balanchine's choreography. Handsomely produced and lavishly illustrated with scenes from the ballets, the book is both a major contribution to dance criticism and an absorbing chronicle of engagement with the work of a great artist.

Robert Garis, who has written dance criticism for Partisan Review, The New Republic, and other periodicals, traces his involvement with Balanchine's dances from his first encounter with Apollo in 1945 to his close observation of Balanchine's own company, the New York City Ballet, since its founding in 1948. He explores how Balanchine built a repertory, how and why he chose his dancers, and why his ballets attracted audiences that were both elite and general. He discusses Balanchine's work with two diametrically different dancers, Violette Verdy and Suzanne Farrell, who both inspired major ballets. He considers the artistic consequences of Balanchine's infatuation with Farrell and gives his impressions of Farrell's catastrophic departure in 1969 and her return in 1975, which initiated Balanchine's last great creative period. By testing and retesting his own reactions, by comparing different dancers in the same role and the work of the same dancer in different roles, by describing many ballets in precise but nontechnical detail, Garis invites the reader to share his delight in "judging art in order to form and express an identity."

Robert Garis is Katharine Lee Bates Professor of English Emeritus at Wellesley College.  He has been a dance critic for Partisan Review, The New Republic, the Yale Review, Ballet Review, and Raritan.

"A valuable book that provides at once an interpretation of Balanchine's ballets, a portrait of the intelligentsia that gathered around his enterprise, and the history of one mind's delight as Garis, over four decades, watched and meditated on the unfolding of this great body of work."—Joan Acocella, dance critic

"A unique and original book with two interwoven subjects: the Balanchine oeuvre in its history and development, and a critical account of the development of the author's own connoisseurship."—John Hollander, Yale University

"It serves—and marvelously—as the intellectual autobiography of a critic, and its retrospective of Balanchine's changing emphases as an artist raises the bar for discussion of his American career."—Mindy Aloff, New York Times Book Review

"Revealing. . . . [A] masterly analysis. . . . For those who want a stimulating, very personal demonstration of why this choreographer mattered so much to tens of thousands, Following Balanchine is unbeatable."—Harris Green, Dance Magazine

"A work of great distinction. . . . Truly valuable and precise books about art are rare enough, but much rarer is a satisfying book about the exact character and importance of serious criticism."—Anne Hollander, New Republic

"A work of great distinction….Garis is writing first of all for present and future devotees. But his larger manifesto is really about the continuing importance of knowing exactly what makes an art great….His message is rare in our day, and any day needs to hear it."—Anne Hollanger, New Republic

"An interesting, accessible, passionate tale of Mr. Garis’ lifelong obsession with Balanchine’s ballets."—Rick Whitaker, New York Observer

"Passionate and informed, Garis bounces ideas off choreography with alacrity. The outcome is a special-and admittedly specialist-book brimming with enthusiasms, bristling with insight."—Allen Robertson, Time Out

"The most valuable aspect of this book is [Garis's] remarkable recall both of details of now lost ballets and of miraculous performances that he witnessed. . . . His praise for later Balanchine works is rich with captured imagery, and his recall of the unique dancing of Balanchine's remarkable performers . . . reflects a passionate dedication."—Leland Windreich, Dance International

"Following Balanchine by Robert Garis contains the greatest information on classical dance in the 20th century, leading into the 21st century. It is a critical work to read to be current in the world of 'le grand ballet.'"—Edward Villella, Dance Magazine

"Concretely, analytically, stubbornly, and imaginatively, Garis follows Balanchine, speculating on the master's motives for dropping ballets, favoring certain ballerinas, editing masterpieces, making detours from what seemed to be sure paths. He is brilliant on the subject of the evolving collaboration between Stravinsky and Balanchine, compelling in his discussion of Balanchine's choreo-musical structures."—Laura Jacobs, New Criterion

ISBN: 9780300070590
Publication Date: February 27, 1997
272 pages, 7 x 10
46 b/w illus.