Based on a decade of unprecedented research, the first major biography of George Balanchine—a broad-canvas portrait set against the backdrop of the tumultuous century that shaped the man The New York Times called “the Shakespeare of dancing.”
Arguably the greatest choreographer who ever lived, George Balanchine was one of the cultural titans of the twentieth century. He created more than 400 ballets, including Serenade, Agon, and his now iconic version of The Nutcracker. His radical approach to choreography reinvented the art of ballet and made him a legend. Written with enormous style and artistry, and based on more than one hundred interviews and research in archives across Russia, Europe, and the Americas, Mr. B carries us through Balanchine’s tumultuous and dramatic life and into the making of his extraordinary dances.
Balanchine’s life coincided with some of the biggest historical events of his time. Born in Russia under the last Czar, Balanchine experienced the upheavals of World War I, the Russian Revolution, exile, World War II, and the Cold War. A co-founder of the New York City Ballet, he pressed dance in America to the forefront of modernism and made it a popular art. None of this was easy, and Homans shows us his loneliness and failures, his five marriages—all to dancers—and many loves. We follow his bouts of ill health and spiritual crises, and learn of his profound musical skills and sensibility, and his immense determination to make some of the most glorious, strange, and beautiful dances ever to grace the modern stage.
With full access to Balanchine’s papers and many of his dancers, Jennifer Homans, the dance critic for The New Yorker and a former dancer herself, has spent more than a decade researching Balanchine’s life and times to write a vast history of the twentieth century through the lens of one of its greatest artists, and the definitive biography of the man his dancers called Mr. B.