The centenary of the birth of choreographer George Balanchine this year has created cause for celebration and revival of many of his most famous ballets among them "Serenade," the first ballet he choreographed in the United States, "Four Temperaments," "Jewels" and "Allegro Brillante." Robert Gottlieb, an editor and dance critic, served on the board of directors of the New York City Ballet, the company Balanchine founded, and brings a wealth of firsthand knowledge to George Balanchine: The Ballet Maker, his straightforward narrative of Balanchine's remarkable life. Born in St. Petersburg, Russia, George Balanchivadze was thrust into the dramatic political and social fabric that soon produced World War I and the Russian Revolution. He entered the Imperial School of Ballet and Theater at age nine after arriving too late to take entrance exams to the Naval Academy. Balanchine's subsequent development at the school as a musician, dancer and choreographer served as the springboard for his phenomenal output of dances.
So did money or lack of it. Though never outwardly bothered by either having money or being penniless, Balanchine always seemed to thrive in situations where time was of the essence, money was on the line or a problem presented itself. Throughout his prolific career his five marriages (all to ballet dancers, most of them much younger than he), his early wandering years after he left Stalinist Russia creating works for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes and other European companies, his time as a choreographer on Broadway and in Holly-wood, and his subsequent maturation with the School of American Ballet and the New York City Ballet Balanchine, like Shakespeare, seemed to create his most inspired works out of the most mundane of circumstances. Bonnie Arant Ertelt is a writer in Nashville.