A talented young dancer and his brilliant teacher
“Clifford’s exuberant memoir about his time as a New York City Ballet principal dancer and choreographer under ‘Mr. B’ let me be a fly on the wall during company dance class in the 1960s.”—Rebecca Thomas, New York Times
“A colorful portrait of mid-20th-century dance from someone who lived through it.”—Pointe Magazine
“A close-up look by an astute and engaging observer, neither self-important nor falsely modest, at one of the supreme artists of the past century and a celebration of the astonishing work and the astonishing company he created.”—Wall Street Journal
“Clifford, founder of the Los Angeles Ballet, debuts with an enthralling look at his decades-long career and his time as the protégé of legendary ballet choreographer George Balanchine. . . . Even those not enraptured by ballet will find Clifford’s extraordinary career and bond with Balanchine, who died in 1983, affecting. For ballet devotees, this intimate account is required reading.”—Publishers Weekly
“Clifford is to be commended for this sparkling read, an appreciative yet clear-eyed tribute to his mentor and a fascinating glimpse behind the scenes of ballet.”—Library Journal
“Immensely likeable. … The Balanchine who emerges is someone who was both generous and inspiring, funny and caring.”—Dancing Times
“The irrepressible energy with which Clifford writes is infectious—and is just what Balanchine welcomed in a dancer. Clifford created important roles for Balanchine that are still danced today; he choreographed frequently for New York City Ballet before departing to establish his own company; he remained a Balanchine favorite. ‘Why me?,’ Clifford asks. His whole book—enthusiastic, thoughtful, large-spirited—provides the profoundly grateful answer.”—Alastair Macaulay, former chief dance critic, New York Times
“Sheds unprecedented light on Balanchine and the New York City Ballet. Of all the many memoirs by Balanchine’s dancers and colleagues, this is the one that tells us the most. Smart, engaging, unsparingly frank, and irresistibly readable from cover to cover, Balanchine’s Apprentice is a major addition to the literature of ballet in the twentieth century.”—Terry Teachout, drama critic of the Wall Street Journal and author of All in the Dances: A Brief Life of George Balanchine
“With Clifford's personal zest came his fearless determination to perform, choreograph, and be a true friend to his great mentor, George Balanchine. His book includes numerous stories previously unshared in a public setting, ardently recounted by an artist who rode the crest of his life-altering wave during some of New York City Ballet’s richest years.”—Steven Caras, former NYCB dancer, photographer, lecturer; subject of the Emmy Award-winning documentary Steven Caras: See Them Dance
“As a dancer, choreographer, teacher, and director, Clifford has lived through important years in the development of American dance, and he writes about them with verve and power.”—Jack Anderson, author of The One and Only: The Ballet Russe De Monte Carlo
“Clifford’s accounts of his personal and professional interactions with Balanchine and other members of the New York City Ballet are candid and opinionated. His recollections of such early teachers in his native Los Angeles as Eugene Loring, Carmelita Maracci, and Maya Plisetskaya also make the book an engaging and enlightening read.”—Martha Ullman West, author of Todd Bolender, Janet Reed, and the Making of American Ballet
“Articulates a beautiful devotion.”—Wendy Perron, former editor-in-chief of Dance Magazine
In this long-awaited memoir, dancer and choreographer John Clifford offers a highly personal look inside the day-to-day operations of the New York City Ballet and its creative mastermind, George Balanchine. Balanchine’s Apprentice is the story of Clifford—an exceptionally talented artist—and the guiding inspiration for his life’s work in dance.
Growing up in Hollywood with parents in show business, Clifford acted in television productions such as The Danny Kaye Show, The Dinah Shore Show, and Death Valley Days. He recalls the beginning of his obsession with ballet: At age 11 he was cast as the Prince in a touring production of The Nutcracker. The director was none other than the legendary Balanchine, who would eventually invite Clifford to New York City and shape his career as both a mentor and artistic example.
During his dazzling tenure with the New York City Ballet, Clifford danced the lead in 47 works, several created for him by Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, and others. He partnered famous ballerinas including Gelsey Kirkland and Allegra Kent. He choreographed eight ballets for the company, his first at age 20. He performed in Russia, Germany, France, and Canada. Afterward, he returned to the West Coast to found the Los Angeles Ballet, where he continued to innovate based on the Balanchine technique.
In this book, Clifford provides firsthand insight into Balanchine’s relationships with his dancers, including Suzanne Farrell. Examining his own attachment to his charismatic teacher, Clifford explores questions of creative influence and integrity. His memoir is a portrait of a young dancer who learned and worked at lightning speed, who pursued the calls of art and genius on both coasts of America and around the world.
John Clifford was a principal dancer and choreographer with the New York City Ballet from 1966 to 1974, leaving to found the Los Angeles Ballet at age 27. He choreographs for film, television, and theater and has staged Balanchine’s and his own ballets internationally.
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