Review Of "Jerome Robbins: A Life In Dance" By W. Lesser

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This work joins two relatively recent definitive biographies of Robbins: Deborah Jowitt's Jerome Robbins: His Life, His Theater, His Dance (CH, Feb'05, 42-3331) and Amanda Vaill's Somewhere: The Life of Jerome Robbins (CH, Jul'07, 44-6164). Lesser's contribution, part of the "Jewish Lives" series, is a brief but welcome addition. A well-regarded literary critic, Lesser presents Robbins's life through the lens of some of his major dances, both concert ballets and Broadway ventures, offering detailed, readable analyses of numerous works. Her enthusiasm for the significance of Robbins's narrative imagination as a choreographer is evident as is her regard for the powerful legacy of Robbins's work on contemporary dance makers in various styles. She is deft in grappling with competing estimates of his strength as a Broadway choreographer/director and concert choreographer, and she makes a strong claim for Robbins's superiority as an artist in both arenas. This intimate, well-researched portrait includes useful quotes from earlier books and reviews, interviews with people in the dance world, and Robbins's own journal writing. Overall, Lesser weaves the complexities and contradictions of Robbins's artistic, personal, philanthropic, and political selves into a sympathetic and engaging story. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty and professionals; general readers.


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