At long last, and just squeaking into the final weeks of the Balanchine centennial, my review of the two recent Balanchine biographies runs in the Chronicle. I should add that the year timeline on the Croce book is the official word from the publisher, and not a promise of punctuality seeing as deadlines can be surprisingly malleable things:
“As the opening chords of Tchaikovsky’s “Serenade for Strings” swell, 17 women stand like a grove of trees in moonlight, one arm raised as though to shield their faces from the divine. George Balanchine created “Serenade” in 1934, just months after arriving in America, and 70 years later it still leaves dance lovers in meditative awe.
This vision of tulle skirts and spiritual yearning is just one manifestation of a genius capable of evoking the grandeur of imperial Russia, the jazzy athleticism of America and the romanticism of France — sometimes all in the same ballet. But Balanchine’s stylistic breadth doesn’t even begin to tell the story of his stature. Balanchine made ballet a legitimate art in a country once hostile to the form. He made dances of such depth, musicality and startling modernism that leading painters and poets flocked to see them. In 2004, to mark what would have been his 100th birthday, at least 68 companies around the globe danced Balanchine ballets.
Now at the twilight of that centennial, two slim books have appeared to celebrate his life. Committed ballet fans will have to wait a year more for the long-promised study of Balanchine’s work by Arlene Croce, the former New Yorker dance writer and his leading living critic. But readers could do worse than to bide their time with new biographies by Terry Teachout and Robert Gottlieb, both short, for the most part engagingly written and designed to appeal to the general arts fan just encountering Balanchine’s legacy.”