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February 26, 2010


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Curl up with Baronova's memoirs. 586 chatty, crowded pages, all before age 48!

LOL! I think I'll wait for your book review, thank you.

Ha, I'm no book reviewer. Here's an informative review, with which I wholeheartedly agree, followed by some of my random and rambling observations.


I wish I could say only goody-good things about the last baby ballerina, but alas I cannot.

Irina's mother was viciously abusive. The effect of her misbehavior towards Irina is magnified by Irina's stoic refusal ever to condemn her mother (although she does admit to "hang-ups"), but after a while I got infuriated by this exploitative relationship. I just wanted Irina to tell her mother to go to hell. But good little Russian girls don't do that, bless them.

For example, after Irina finds happiness with her husband Cecil Tennant, Mama Baronova (widowed) moves in Cecil and Irina and never stops complaining. At that point you want to say, "Irina! Stop with good little girl martyr routine and throw the old sow out!" No, her mother lives with her until she blessedly expires age 92.

Also, there is absolutely no analysis of anything she ever did. It's just, this happened, that happened, etc. I don't expect a Ph.D. dissertation, but if you have read any of the NYCB ballerina's memoirs (Farrell, Kent, Milberg), you'll benefit from excellent ballerina's-eye-view description of what it was like to work with a choreographer. Isn't that why we read them? It's not like they are in and out of rehab! A ballerina's life is basically work and sleep, with a little bit left over for eating. (Very little.)

I think maybe Irina was such a natural talent that what takes effort, and therefore learing, she just soaked up. She took to toe shoes like a duck to water, and never describes issues or problems with jumping, turning, or beats.

The most interesting part of the book, actually, was a vivid description of what it was like to be an impoverished White Russian refugee in Romania from 1920 to 1930. I never thought much about them, but now it occurs to me that the White Russian refugees were an amazing lot, who enriched the world enormously with their cultural talents. There is a sheer vibrancy about Russians. They manage to combine earthiness and mysticism in a way that no other natonality can. And God, what other bunch of people is so AT HOME on stage as they are???

Interesting tid-bit: she mentioned two now-dead Balanchine ballets, Cotillon and Le something other-other. She described that in one of them (I think Cotillon), she, Riabouchinska, and Toumanova were required to do 32 fouettes in unison. She says they could do them perfectly, in any way, including en diagonale.

Then later she relates that she asked Balanchine why these little jewels weren't in the NYCB rep, and he replied, "I don't remember them." Baronova wrote, "I didn't believe him."

I don't think she was implying anything but my interpretation was that Balanchine didn't have three ballerinas who could do 32 fouettes in perfect unison, on the spot.

Interjection: I once read that Balanchine disliked the whole 32 fouettes business. He said that after 8 of the same kind of anything, the audience is always counting, and he didn't want any of that. So Baronova's story about the 32 fouettes in Cotillon surprised me.

Well, maybe he really was bored by 32 fouettes, by the time he founded NYCB. Or maybe he didn't have 3 gals who could do them in unison. (It's different when one ballerina doesn't quite finish them in SWAN, but three would look like a mess.)

Extra credit: film of Toumanova dancing on the beach in Australia. What a stunning beauty she was in her prime:


While you wait (we hope it won't be too long!), some Mayerling candy for you:




Thank you Bag Ladies - for sending a clip that sends us all into fits of crazies!!

If we wish for it, it WILL come.

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