Balanchine and the Lost Muse

Revolution & the Making of a Choreographer
By Elizabeth Kendell

This dual biography traces the early lives and friendship of famed Russian choreographer George Balanchine and the extraordinary young ballerina Liidia (Lidochka) Ivanova.

Elizabeth Kendell’s dual biography tells the story of their dramatic childhood experiences and artistic growth in Russia, interweaving the political events of the period with accounts of daily life at the St Petersburg Imperial Ballet Academy. ¬†Capturing the opulence of pre-revolutionary St Petersburg and the desperate privations of the years from 1917 to 1924, Balanchine and the Lost Muse¬†sheds new light on a crucial moment of transition in the history of ballet.

Drawing upon extensive archival research, Kendall weaves a fascinating tale about the formative relationships of the man who would become one of the most influential choreographer in modern ballet. Abandoned by his mother at Russia’s imperial ballet school in 1913 at the age of nine, Balanchine was to observe a remarkable confluence of tradition and innovation, witnessing the still-popular grand ballets of Marius Petipa, ground-breaking ballets by choreographer Michel Fokine, and experimental works dictated by the revolutionary government.

It was while studying at the school and struggling to support himself that Balanchine also met Liidia Ivanova. A talented and bold dancer who grew close to the Bolshevik elite in her adolescent years, Ivanova was a source of great inspiration to Balanchine. Days before they planned to leave Russia together, she died in mysterious circumstances that would haunt her friends and colleagues for years to come.

This book is an excellent addition to existing biographies of George Balanchine. While readers may occasionally find the depth of detail a little overwhelming, Balanchine and the Lost Muse is an essential addition to the libraries of dance colleges, scholars and admirers of his ballets.

Click here to read Kendell’s blog on the publisher’s website.

Oxford University Press, 2013. Hardcover and Ebook available, 304 pages.