Toni Bentley, a dancer for George Balanchine, the greatest ballet maker of the 20th century, tells the story of Serenade, his iconic masterpiece, and what it was like to dance—and live—in his world at New York City Ballet during its legendary era.
"Reading Bentley's Serenade made me feel as alive as I felt on the stage the moment that I fell in love with ballet…. [A] delicate balance of personal memoir, rarefied elegance, history of the arts and pure human interest.”—Misty Copeland, New York Times Book Review
"[A] unique document about one of the greatest ballets ever created…. A beautiful read”—Mikhail Baryshnikov
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: its dazzling opening, with seventeen women in a double-diamond pattern; its radical, even jazzy, use of the highly refined language that is ballet; its place in the choreographer’s own dramatic story of his immigration to the United States from Soviet Russia; its mystical—and literal—embodiment of the tradition of classical ballet in just thirty-three minutes.
Bentley takes us inside the rarefied, intense, and thrilling world Balanchine created through his lifelong devotion to celebrating and expanding female beauty and strength—a world that, inevitably, passed upon his death. An intimate elegy to grace and loss and to the imprint of a towering artist and his transcendent creation on Bentley’s own life, Serenade: A Balanchine Story is a rich narrative by a dynamic artist about the nature of art itself at its most ephemeral and glorious.