Having served on the Board of Directors at New York City Ballet, Gottlieb knew Balanchine and his dancers and so brings a personal perspective to the biography. From the loneliness of his childhood to his deathbed, this is an informal biography of one of ballet’s greats, and in which the author does not hide his admiration. In it we see a man who shakes up the ballet world while remaining largely liked.
It is no secret that his muses were normally young female dancers, he did not respond to male movement with such adoration. Even when Baryshnikov joined NYCB he was not treated in any special way and no new works were created on him. Balanchine rewarded those who were loyal to him highly and there is only one dancer included who does not speak kindly of him, a rare feat for a creative genius. He was married multiple times and seems to have taken it in his stride that they would not last forever, although he loyally cared for Tanaquil le Clerque when she was struck down with Polio, despite the fact they had agreed to go their separate ways before tragedy struck. His attitude to money was similarly easy-going, giving it away as freely as he earned it.
What emerges is a portrait of a man whose creative output was vast and who changed the landscape of ballet, and yet always had a loneliness lingering. For one remembered as a choreographer it is also remarked upon that he was a beautiful dancer and that those performing his works often felt they’d never be able to dance them as beautifully. A warm, chatty biography that is a joy to read, though by no means comprehensive.