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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Books: Autobiographies of Dancers

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you could try Life in dance by DARCEY bUSSELL

mao's last dancer by Li Cunxin

Margot fonteyn's autobiography

Martha Graham's autobiographie

Dance to the piper by Agnes de Mille

Maia Plissetskaia's autobiography

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To add to the list:


Tamara Karsavina's Theatre Street

Deborah Bull's Dancing Away

Ninette de Valois' Come Dance With Me

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Ekaterina Maksimova wrote an autobiography in Russian... Gabriella Komleva did too (sorry, they're in Russian -- but it never hurts to throw the name out there :o).

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Distant Dances by Sono Osato (sp?) is a great look at the Ballet Russes from a corps/soloist dancer who found later sucess in musical theatre and it's beautifully written.


Split Seconds by Tamara Geva is less interesting for the ballet (though she was Balanchine's first wife) than for her first hand description of the 1917 revolution.


Choura by Alexandra Danilova is great, her personality really comes through and it's a charming one.


I, Maya Plisetskaya is long and confusing; I really liked it, some others on this board and Ballet Talk didn't agree.


I'd like to recommend again [/u]Theater Street by Karsavina.

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Guest canbelto

Makarova: A Dance Autobiography is a beautiful coffee book but with biting, colorful comments by the great ballerina herself. Gems (both pictorial and verbal) on every page. Not really an autobiography but a good book to have nonetheless. Very entertaining.

Allegra Kent's "Once a Dancer" sometimes crosses the line with TMI (did we really need to know how she stopped taking birth control to purposely get pregnant with her estranged husband?) but written in a very unique voice, and a good inside look at dance.

I'd shy away from Margot Fonteyn's autobiography, mostly because I dont need to know what a great president Tito would make on every page :blushing:

And John Drummond's Speaking of Diaghilev has personal reminisces from many ballerinas who danced for Diaghilev, from Karsavina to Markova to Ninette de Valois. Diaghilev was have been an incredible man -- anyone who could make Ninette de Valois admit "I was always too scared to look him in the eye" must have been special :thumbsup:

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I've just recieved my copy of Chan Hon Goh's autobiography Beyond the Dance, a Ballerian's life - just started reading it - seems to be a nice easy reader with lots of piccies.



Otherwise, all the above - Tamara Karsarvina's is wonderful - I even named my old cat after her -pet name at school!!


If you read French, Claude Bessy's autobiography is great too - La Danse Pour Passion. Another interesting read although not an autobiography is Nijinsky by his wife Romola Nijinska.

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I just read As the Waltz was Ending, an autobiography of Emma Macalik Butterworth. She was in the corps de ballet with the Vienna State Oprea before it was destroyed during WWII. She wasn't very famous, but it's still an intresting book.

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  • 6 years later...

I recently just finished Suzanne farrels book holding on to the air! It was amazing! It was just what j was looking for and it also gave lots of information about the history of balanchine!!! I have just starte reading his autibiography and enjoying it tremendously! Any other ballet books I could read?!

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I really enjoyed Holding on to the Air too. If you haven't yet read Merrill Ashley's Dancing for Balanchine I think that you will really like it as well, particularly as you have a base from S. Farrel's book to understand some of what Ms. Ashley speaks of. I've read so many dancer autobiographies, but this one I passed along to my 16 year old daughter as "worth reading."

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Very interesting! Thanks for your input! I was wondering does this book you talk of relate to Suzanne Farrell's with the interactions with Balanchine? I really enjoyed how it talked so much about his life and how he started the New York City Ballet. I have actually seen them perform many of times and it facinates me how it was created and how it came about. I wanna know as much information as I can on him. It is one of my favorite subjects to read about; ballet!! Thanks!

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