At age seventeen, Toni Bentley was chosen by Balanchine, then in his final years, to join the New York City Ballet. From both backstage and onstage, she carries us through the serendipitous history and physical intricacies and demands of "Serenade."
Bentley, who danced under Balanchine’s direction at the New York City Ballet for a decade in the 1970s and ’80s, tells a history that is as vivid and poetic as the dance itself ... it is an introspective nod to the life lessons taught through movement, told from the perspective of a young ballerina ... I felt the spirit of the movements through Bentley’s descriptive prose. She weaves in impressive detail about the actual technique of ballet, articulating the dancer’s physical experience for the reader ... Reading Bentley’s Serenade made me feel as alive as I felt on the stage the moment that I fell in love with ballet: with its grounded fantasy, physical demands, intellectual challenge, structure and beauty ... a book that will delight balletomanes for generations to come; but it will also appeal to those newer to the dance world, with its delicate balance of personal memoir, rarefied elegance, history of the arts and pure human interest.
... [a] beautiful, affecting book ... Ms. Bentley, a poetic writer, eloquently captures the essence of Serenade ... She dissects this 32-minute ballet in precise, unflinching detail, interweaving reminiscences of her time at the School of American Ballet, which she attended from the age of 10, and life inside the New York City Ballet ... she alternates her descriptions of the ballet with revealing biographies of Tchaikovsky, the great choreographer Marius Petipa...and Marie Taglioni ... The core of Ms. Bentley’s book is an unabashed, heartfelt love letter to Balanchine ... This moving, heartfelt book will not only appeal to lovers of ballet, it will make wistful reading for those dancers who will never have the good fortune to work with such a genius as George Balanchine.
Bentley writes as she once danced, with grace and elegance, as she captures the haunting beauty of an art form that exists to be seen and experienced ... A touching tribute to a master, this work will delight balletomanes.